San Francisco Chronicle

FBI releases newly declassifi­ed record on 9/11 attack

- By Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt are New York Times writers.

WASHINGTON — The FBI released a newly declassifi­ed document late Saturday describing connection­s that the agency examined between the hijackers and the Saudi government in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, although it contained no conclusive evidence about whether the kingdom played a role in the attacks.

The 16-page report is the first document to be released since the president last week moved to declassify materials that for years have remained secret.

Families of the Sept. 11 victims have long pushed for a deeper investigat­ion into any possible role the Saudi government had in the attacks. Biden instructed the Justice Department and federal agencies in recent days to release declassifi­ed documents over the next six months after a group of hundreds of affected people — including survivors, emergency medical workers and victims’ relatives — told him to skip the memorial event at ground zero this year if he did not move to disclose some of those documents.

The document, which was heavily redacted, describes an interview conducted in November 2015 with a Saudi man, identified only as PII, who was applying for U.S. citizenshi­p. He detailed his work at the country’s consulate in Los Angeles and shared anecdotes about his personal interactio­ns with embassy leadership. The document also summarizes his contact with people who investigat­ors said had provided “significan­t logistic support” to two of the hijackers.

Some members of the commission that investigat­ed the 2001 attacks believed that if the Saudi government had any role in the plot, it was likely to have involved consular officials. But the document released Saturday provided no new conclusive evidence about the Saudi government’s role.

Speculatio­n around the possible Saudi role increased over the years because of the government’s refusal to declassify 28 pages of a 2002 congressio­nal inquiry into the attacks that specifical­ly addressed possible connection­s between the kingdom and the terrorist plot.

The document was finally released in 2016, and it detailed numerous suspicious meetings between Saudi officials and the Sept. 11 hijackers, and checks from Saudi royals to operatives in contact with the hijackers. It was also an unflatteri­ng picture of the kingdom’s efforts to thwart American operations against al Qaeda in the years before the attacks.

The Saudi government has long denied any involvemen­t. Its embassy in Washington issued a statement last week saying “any allegation that Saudi Arabia is complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks is categorica­lly false.”

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