Following an executive order by President Joe Biden, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has disclosed the first document connected to its investigation into the 9/11 attacks on the United States and possible Saudi government support for the hijackers.
The heavily redacted document, released late Saturday, recounts the hijackers' interactions with Saudi allies in the United States. Still, it does not prove that senior Saudi government officials were involved in the attacks.
It outlines the FBI's investigation into the alleged "logistical support" supplied to at least two hijackers by a Saudi consulate official and a suspected Saudi intelligence agent in the United States.
The report, which was released on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, is the first investigative record to be made public after President Biden ordered a declassification review of information kept secret for years.
The 16-page document summarizes an FBI interview conducted in 2015 with a man who had frequent communication with Saudi nationals in the United States who backed the first hijackers to enter the country before the attacks.
Families of the victims are pushing for action.
Victims' families are pushing for additional information since they are suing Saudi Arabia for their culpability in the horrible attack.
The number of records that are still off-limits has long been a source of aggravation for the families.
Former Saudi officials were questioned under oath as part of the lawsuit this year, and family members have long considered the release of declassified records as a crucial step in proving their case.
Osama bin Laden, whose Al Qaeda network was behind the attacks, was Saudi, as were fifteen of the hijackers.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, where passengers on United Flight 93 fought the hijackers. The plane crashed in a field, preventing another target from being hit.
Hundreds more first responders have died from illnesses contracted while trying to save lives amid the smoky and dust-laden ruins of the attacks in the two decades since, particularly in New York City, where thick clouds of dark ash filled the air.
The debris sickened a large number of other people, some of whom died.
Saudi Arabia's denial
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in the attacks for a long time. The Saudi Embassy in Washington has stated that it supports the complete declassification of all records as a method to "end the baseless allegations against the Kingdom once and for all."
Any allegation that Saudi Arabia was involved was "categorically false." according to the embassy.
Families of victims hailed the paper's revelation as a crucial step forward in their efforts to link the attacks to Saudi Arabia.
In a statement, Jim Kreindler, a lawyer for the victims' family, said, "The findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government's responsibility for the 9/11 attacks,"
"This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how (Al Qaeda) operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government."
Terry Strada, whose husband Tom was killed in the attacks, said the FBI dossier put to rest any suspicions about Saudi culpability in the attacks in a statement on behalf of the organization 9/11 Families United.
"Now the Saudis' secrets are exposed, and it is well past time for the Kingdom to own up to its officials' roles in murdering thousands on American soil," the statement said.
The FBI is looking into it.
According to released papers, the US probed certain Saudi diplomats and others with Saudi government ties who knew the hijackers after they landed in the US.
Despite this, the 9/11 Commission report in 2004 found "no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded" the Al Qaeda-led attacks. Still, it did acknowledge that money could have been channeled to the group through Saudi-linked charities.
The first two hijackers to arrive in the United States, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, have been the subject of intense examination, as has the support they received.
In February 2000, shortly after arriving in southern California, they met a Saudi national called Omar al Bayoumi at a halal restaurant who assisted them in finding and leasing an apartment in San Diego, had ties to the Saudi government, and had previously drawn FBI inquiry.
Bayoumi had portrayed his restaurant meeting with Hazmi and Mihdhar as a "chance encounter," and the FBI made several attempts during its questioning to determine whether that description was correct or if it had been planned ahead of time.
The paper was based on a 2015 interview with a man vying for US citizenship and had previous connections with Saudi nationals who investigators say offered "significant logistical support" to some of the hijackers.
The man's identity is kept hidden throughout the text, but he is said to have worked at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles.
According to the paper, this includes Bayoumi.
Fahad al Thumairy, a former accredited diplomat at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles who commanded an extremist faction at his mosque, is also mentioned in the paper.
According to the paper, a seven-minute phone conversation was made in 1999 to the Saudi Arabian family home phone of two brothers who would later become captives at the Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba.
Bayoumi and Thumairy had both departed the United States weeks before the attacks.