Newly released files may show connections between low-level Saudi officials and a terrorist support network in southern California led to the 9/11 attacks


People are seen in a reflection of a photo of the twin towers during an anniversary ceremony commemorating 9/11. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Philip Shenon
Friday 13 May 2016
The Guardian

Investigators for the 9/11 commission would later describe the scene in Saudi Arabia as chilling.

They took seats in front of a former Saudi diplomat who, many on the commission’s staff believed, had been a ringleader of a Saudi government spy network inside the US that gave support to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers in California in the year before the 2001 attacks.

At first, the witness, 32-year-old Fahad al-Thumairy, dressed in traditional white robes and headdress, answered the questions calmly, his hands folded in front of him. But when the interrogation became confrontational, he began to squirm, literally, pushing himself back and forth in the chair, folding and unfolding his arms, as he was pressed about his ties to two Saudi hijackers who had lived in southern California before 9/11.

Even as he continued to deny any link to terrorists, Thumairy became angry and began to sputter when confronted with evidence of his 21 phone calls with another Saudi in the hijackers’ support network – a man Thumairy had once claimed to be a stranger. “It was so clear Thumairy was lying,” a commission staffer said later. “It was also so clear he was dangerous.”

An interrogation report prepared after the questioning of the Saudi diplomat in February 2004 is among the most tantalizing of a sheaf of newly declassified documents from the files of the staff of the 9/11 commission. The files, which were quietly released by the National Archives over the last 18 months and have drawn little public scrutiny until now, offer a detailed chronology of how the commission’s staff investigated allegations of Saudi government involvement in 9/11, including how the panel’s investigators flew to Saudi Arabia to go face-to-face with some of the Saudis believed to have been part of the hijackers’ support network on American soil.

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