This page can be viewed at http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=omar_al-bayoumi
A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego, California. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, although the 9/11 Commission will say that it received no evidence that he was involved in terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)
Saudi Government Spy - Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect al-Bayoumi is a Saudi government spy reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. (Thornton 9/14/2002; Isikoff 11/22/2002; Reno 9/2003) Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) Chairman of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and his investigators will, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “find it obvious that the amiable al-Bayoumi was a low-ranking Saudi intelligence agent,” and “someone who had been put on the ground in San Diego by his government to keep an eye on the activities of the relatively large Saudi community in Southern California.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 52)
'Ghost Employee' - Just prior to moving to the US, al-Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan. His salary in this job was approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son, Saud al-Rashid, is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see May 16, 2002). (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he is a student or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). However, he is none of those things. (Bassey 10/21/2001; Simpson 8/11/2003) In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) From early 1995 until 2002, al-Bayoumi is paid about $3,000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he is living in the US. According to the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report will note that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. (Risen and Johnston 8/2/2003) The FBI investigates possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. (Newsweek 10/29/2001) The firm’s owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, will deny the accusation. (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
An unknown Saudi benefactor pays a Saudi, Saad Al-Habeeb, to buy a building in San Diego, California, for a new Kurdish community mosque, the Kurdish Community Islamic Center. However, the approximately $500,000 will only be given on the condition that Omar al-Bayoumi be installed as the building’s maintenance manager with a private office at the mosque. After taking the job, al-Bayoumi rarely shows up for work. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; Reno 9/2003) This means he has two jobs at once. The people in the mosque eventually begin a move to replace al-Bayoumi, but he moves to Britain in July 2001 before this can happen. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) An anonymous federal investigator states, “Al-Bayoumi came here, set everything up financially, set up the San Diego [al-Qaeda] cell and set up the mosque.” An international tax attorney notes that anyone handling business for a mosque or a church could set it up as a tax-exempt charitable organization “and it can easily be used for money laundering.” (Gembrowski and Aryan 10/27/2001; Thornton 10/22/2002)
The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry on Omar al-Bayoumi, suspected al-Qaeda advance man, and possible Saudi agent. The FBI discovers he has been in contact with several people also under investigation. (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) The FBI is given a tip that he was sent a suspicious package filled with wire from the Middle East, and that large numbers of Arab men routinely meet in his apartment. His landlord notices that he switches from driving a beat up old car to a new Mercedes. (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003) According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the FBI notes that al-Bayoumi has “access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.” For instance, an FBI source identifies him as a person who has delivered about $500,000 from Saudi Arabia to buy a mosque in June 1998 (see June 1998). However, the FBI closes the inquiry “for reasons that remain unclear .” (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) Also in 1999, al-Bayoumi is working as an employee of the Saudi company Dallah Avco but apparently is doing no work. Someone in the company tries to fire him and sends a note to the Saudi government about this, since the company is so closely tied to the government. However, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi, the Director General of Civil Aviation, replies that it is “extremely urgent” his job is renewed “as quickly as possible,” and so he keeps his job. (Simpson 8/11/2003)
After 9/11, the FBI will examine phone records and determine that hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi calls Saudi official Fahad al Thumairy many times between December 1998 and December 2000. Al-Bayoumi calls al Thumairy’s home number at least ten times, and al Thumairy calls al-Bayoumi much more often—at least 11 times in the month of December 2000 alone. At the time, al Thumairy is working at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, and is a well-known Islamic radical. For part of 2000 at least, al-Bayoumi is living at the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego at the same time as hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. Al Thumairy will later deny knowing al-Bayoumi, but al-Bayoumi will admit knowing al Thumairy. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 514; Shenon 2008, pp. 310-311)
The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry into Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam who will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He serves as the “spiritual leader” to several of the hijackers (see March 2001 and After), and by 2008 US intelligence will determine he is linked to al-Qaeda (see February 27, 2008).
The investigation is opened when it is learned he had probably been visited by a “procurement agent” for bin Laden, Ziyad Khaleel. Khaleel had helped buy a satellite phone for bin Laden; when he is arrested in December 1999 he reportedly tells the FBI crucial details about al-Qaeda operations in the US (see December 29, 1999).
In early 2000 the FBI is aware when al-Awlaki is visited by an unnamed close associate of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ; Schmidt 2/27/2008)
He also serves as vice president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), the US branch of a Yemeni charity founded by Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a Yemeni imam who the US will officially designate a terrorist in 2004. CSSW also has ties to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, considered one of the centers of al-Qaeda activity in Europe. The FBI begins investigating CSSW in 1999 after a Yemeni politician visits the US to solicit donations for the charity, and then visits Mahmoud Es Sayed, a known al-Qaeda figure at the Islamic Cultural Institute, on the same trip. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 243; Schmidt 2/27/2008)
The FBI learns that al-Awlaki knows individuals from the suspect Holy Land Foundation and others involved in raising money for Hamas. Sources allege that al-Awlaki has even more extremist connections.
But none of these links are considered strong enough for criminal charges, and the investigation is closed. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 517) Al-Awlaki is beginning to associate with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar shortly before the investigation ends. For instance, on February 4, one month before the FBI investigation is closed, al-Awlaki talks on the telephone four times with hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi. The 9/11 Commission will later speculate that these calls are related to Alhazmi and Almihdhar, since al-Bayoumi is helping them that day, and that Alhazmi or Almihdhar may even have been using al-Bayoumi’s phone at the time (see February 4, 2000). Al-Bayoumi had also been the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation in 1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).
Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, begins sending monthly cashier’s checks of between $2,000 and $3,500 (accounts differ) to Majeda Dweikat, the Jordanian wife of Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in San Diego. Accounts also differ over when the checks are first sent (between November 1999 and about March 2000; a Saudi government representative will state December 4, 1999). (Fox News 11/23/2002) Basnan’s wife signs many of the checks over to her friend Manal Bajadr, the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi. The payments are made through Riggs Bank, a bank which appears to have turned a blind eye to Saudi embassy transaction and also has longstanding ties to covert CIA operations (see July 2003). (Isikoff 11/22/2002; Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; Borger 11/25/2002; Seper 11/26/2002)
Did the Money Go to the Hijackers? - Some will later suggest that the money from the wife of the Saudi ambassador passes through the al-Bayoumi and Basnan families as intermediaries and ends up in the hands of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. The payments from Princess Haifa continue until May 2002 and may total $51,000, or as much as $73,000. (Isikoff 11/22/2002; MSNBC 11/27/2002) While living in the San Diego area, al-Bayoumi and Basnan are heavily involved in helping with the relocation of, and offering financial support to, Saudi immigrants in the community. (Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002) In late 2002, al-Bayoumi will claim he does not pass any money along to the hijackers. (Sands 12/4/2002)
Basnan and Al-Bayoumi Are Close Friends - Basnan will variously claim to know al-Bayoumi, not to know him at all, or to know him only vaguely. (ABC News 11/25/2002; Almotawa 11/26/2002; ABC News 11/26/2002; MSNBC 11/27/2002) However, early reports will say Basnan and his wife are “very good friends” of al-Bayoumi and his wife. Both couples live at the Parkwood Apartments at the same time as the two hijackers; prior to that, the couples lived together in a different apartment complex. In addition, the two wives will be arrested together in April 2001 for shoplifting. (Thornton 10/22/2002) According to an FBI agent who investigates Basnan after 9/11, Basnan and al-Bayoumi are close friends. For instance, phone call records will show that there are about 700 calls from various phone numbers between Basnan and al-Bayoumi in a one year period. The agent will add that even if one discounted some of the calls given that their wives are friends, the calls between the cell phones are most likely between Basnan and al-Bayoumi. (9/11 Commission 11/17/2003 )
An FBI timeline compiled shortly after 9/11 will mention that shortly before June 23, 2000, a witness sees hijacker Hani Hanjour in the apartment of Omar al-Bayoumi. Al-Bayoumi is known to have helped hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, and there are allegations he is a Saudi spy. There may be some confusion about the date, since the timeline mentions June 23, 2000 as the date al-Bayoumi moves out of the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego, but in fact he leaves that apartment on June 23, 2001 (see June 23-July 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 70 ) It has also been reported that al-Bayoumi introduces Hani Hanjour to the Muslim community in his San Diego neighborhood in early 2000. (Thornton 9/14/2002) There is evidence Hanjour spends a considerable amount of time in San Diego in 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). But according to the 9/11 Commission, Hanjour only spends several days in San Diego in December 2000. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223)
Officially, in 2000, 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour is said to enter the US on December 8, and briefly visit San Diego (see December 8, 2000). However, some reports suggest he may spend a significant amount of time in San Diego earlier in the year. (Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001; Thornton 9/14/2002)
For example, in the two weeks following 9/11, the FBI will identify him as having lived in San Diego during 2000. (Kelly 9/14/2001; NBC (San Diego) 9/15/2001; Thornton 9/21/2001)
In 2004, court records relating to a local terror probe will include authorities stating that Hanjour, along with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, had regularly dined and prayed with Mohdar Abdullah, a Yemeni university student in San Diego. (Thornton 6/2/2004)
When Alhazmi and Almihdhar attend a San Diego flying school in May 2000 (see May 5 and 10, 2000), they are accompanied by one or even two men called Hani. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/18/2001; Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001)
A neighbor of Abdussattar Shaikh, a Muslim leader and also undercover FBI asset living in San Diego, later remembers Shaikh having introduced him to a friend called Hani, who he assumes to have been Hanjour. (Brandon 9/30/2001) (Alhazmi and Almihdhar stay with Shaikh during 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000).) For a short period beginning August 10, another resident at Shaikh’s San Diego house is a Saudi called Yazeed al-Salmi. After 9/11, Al-Salmi will reportedly confide to having known Hanjour and, according to the 9/11 Commission, has “childhood ties” to him. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222 and 518)
Witnesses see Hanjour in San Diego with suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi at least twice in early 2000 (see Early 2000).
Little else is written about Hanjour’s movements during 2000, but the Washington Post notes that for at least part of the year, he “appears to have been in Saudi Arabia, because it was there that he obtained a student visa to take another English course. He applied in September 2000.” (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) The 9/11 Commission will claim that Hanjour goes to Afghanistan in spring 2000, where he spends time in al-Qaeda’s Al Farooq training camp. He is then sent to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Karachi, for training in using code words, before returning to Saudi Arabia on June 20, 2000. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) However, this account will come mainly from written reports of the interrogation of KSM, with whom the commission has no direct contact. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 146 and 521) Partly because of the highly coercive interrogation methods used, there will be questions about the reliability of KSM’s information. (New York Times 6/17/2004) According to the 9/11 Commission, the only time Hanjour is in San Diego this year is from December 8-12, before he moves to Arizona. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223)
According to Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), co-chair of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, during this time Omar al-Bayoumi has an “unusually large number of telephone calls with Saudi government officials in both Los Angeles and Washington.” Graham will note this increased communication corresponds with the arrival of hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar into al-Bayoumi’s life. He will see this as evidence of Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 plot. (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 168-169) An FBI report obtained by the Intelwire.com website in 2008 will specify that from January through May 2000, al-Bayoumi calls the Saudi embassy in Washington 32 times, the Saudi Cultral Mission in Washington 37 times, and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles 24 times. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/15/2002 ) Al-Bayoumi is in contact with Fahad al Thumairy during this time, and the two call each other’s private phone numbers many times (see December 1998-December 2000). Al Thumairy is an official at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles and a known Islamic radical (see January 15-February 2000).
An FBI document from shortly after 9/11 states, “Rental records for the Parkwood Apartments [in San Diego] indicate that, prior to moving into apartment 150, hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar lived with Omar al-Bayoumi” in apartment 152 at the same apartment complex. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 ) An FBI timeline put together later that month further clarifies that on a rental application on February 5, 2000, the two hijackers specified they had lived with al-Bayoumi from January 15 to February 2. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 52 ) January 15 is the same day the two hijackers arrive in the US (see January 15, 2000), which suggests the hijackers immediately went from the Los Angeles airport to al-Bayoumi’s apartment. Al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent, will later claim he only meets the hijackers by chance at a Los Angeles restaurant two weeks later (see February 1, 2000).
Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, goes to great lengths to help future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar settle in San Diego. Supposedly, al-Bayoumi meets them by chance in a Los Angeles restaurant and encourages them to move to San Diego, but the accounts of the meeting are highly doubtful (see February 1, 2000). The FBI’s “best source” in San Diego will later say that al-Bayoumi “must be an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power.” A former top FBI official working on the al-Bayoumi investigation claims, “We firmly believed that he had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them that day was more than coincidence.” (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
When Alhazmi and Almihdhar move into apartment 150 in the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego in early February, they indicate on their rental application that they have been staying at al-Bayoumi’s apartment in the same apartment complex since January 15, the day they arrived in the US (see January 15-February 2, 2000). (This would suggest the alleged accidental restaurant meeting never took place.) (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
He is the co-signer and guarantor for their rental application, because they do not have established credit. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
He pays $1,500 cash for their first month’s rent and security deposit. Some FBI officials claim the hijackers immediately pay him back, others claim they do not. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 )
The apartment manager will later claim al-Bayoumi occasionally paid rent for Alhazmi and Almihdhar on other occasions. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
Shortly after they arrive in San Diego, al-Bayoumi throws a welcoming party to introduce them to the local Muslim community. (Goldstein and Booth 12/29/2001) One attendee will later say an al-Bayoumi party “was a big deal… it meant that everyone accepted them without question.” (Thornton 10/25/2001)
He also introduces hijacker Hani Hanjour to the community a short time later, and Hanjour is seen in his apartment later in the year (see Early 2000). (Thornton 9/14/2002)
Cayson Bin Don, a friend of al-Bayoumi, will later say al-Bayoumi “spent a lot of time at Alhazmi and Almihdhar’s apartment.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/8/2001 )
Al-Bayoumi apparently loans the hijackers his cell phone until they can get phone service in their own apartment. On February 15, 2000, someone trying to call al-Bayoumi on his phone has the call answered by Alhazmi instead. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 516)
He tasks an acquaintance, Mohdar Abdullah, to serve as their translator and help them get driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, information on flight schools, and more. (Thornton 9/14/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 )
After getting to know San Diego resident Omar al-Bayoumi, future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi allegedly begins to suspect that he is a Saudi spy. Alhazmi, fellow hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and al-Bayoumi all live in the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego in early 2000 (see January 15-February 2, 2000 and January 15-February 2000). In discussing why the hijackers move from there, the 9/11 Commission will comment, “They may also have been reconsidering the wisdom of living so close to the video camera-wielding al-Bayoumi, who Alhazmi seemed to think was some sort of Saudi spy.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 219)
Alhazmi Warns Friend Al-Bayoumi Is a Spy - An FBI report from shortly after 9/11 obtained by the website Intelwire.com will similarly mention, “Alhazmi disclosed to _____ [that al-Bayoumi] was a spy for the Saudi government and directed ______ not to socialize too much with him.” (Several names mentioned are redacted, and al-Bayoumi’s name is inferred from other references to him.) (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/15/2002 ) It is unclear what the source for this information is, or when exactly Alhazmi may say this.
Alhazmi Also Tells FBI Informant Al-Bayoumi Is a Spy - From May until December 2000, Alhazmi lives at the house of Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant. In a 2004 interview by the 9/11 Commission, Shaikh will say that Alhazmi told him that al-Bayoumi was an agent for the Saudi government. Alhazmi also told him that he didn’t like al-Bayoumi, and he complained that al-Bayoumi constantly videotaped people at the local mosque, and made comments on the video camera’s microphone as he recorded them. Shaikh already knew al-Bayoumi from the local mosque (the Islamic Center of San Diego) and al-Bayoumi also visited Alhazmi at his house. Shaikh pointed out that he’d noticed this too, and he says he told Alhazmi, “I have heard that al-Bayoumi is an agent (of the Saudis).” Later, Shaikh warned someone he knew not to help al-Bayoumi after being requested to do so, because he feared al-Bayoumi was an intelligence agent. (9/11 Commission 4/23/2004)
Others Concur Al-Bayoumi Was a Spy - Many US investigators will later conclude that al-Bayoumi is in fact a Saudi spy (see August 1-3, 2003 and September 7, 2004). Furthermore, some FBI officials will allegedly conclude that Alhazmi and Almihdhar also are connected to Saudi intelligence (see 2006 and After and August 6, 2003).
Future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar attend a San Diego mosque whose imam is Anwar al-Awlaki, and they have closed-door meetings with him. Al-Awlaki preaches at the Al-Ribat Al-Islami (also known as Rabat) mosque in La Mesa, a town right next to San Diego. After 9/11, the FBI will question al-Awlaki, and he will admit to meeting with Alhazmi several times, but say he does not remember what they discussed. He will not claim to remember Almihdhar at all. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 221) However, other accounts will suggest there is a much closer relationship, and with both hijackers. It is uncertain when they first meet, but a series of phone calls on February 4, 2000 connects the two hijackers, al-Awlaki, and a suspected Saudi spy named Omar al-Bayoumi (see February 4, 2000). The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later report that Alhazmi and Almihdhar “were closely affiliated with [al-Awlaki] who reportedly served as their spiritual adviser during their time in San Diego.… Several persons informed the FBI after September 11 that this imam had closed-door meetings in San Diego with Almihdhar, Alhazmi, and another individual, whom al-Bayoumi had asked to help the hijackers.” (US Congress 7/24/2003 )
Abdullah in Closed-Door Meetings? - This other person may be Mohdar Abdullah. Interviewed after 9/11, Abdullah will claim that al-Bayoumi specifically asked him “to be the individual to acclimate the hijackers to the United States, particularly San Diego, California.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 513) Furthermore, one witness will later claim to have met Alhazmi through both al-Awlaki and Abdullah. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 513) Abdullah may be told of the 9/11 plot in the spring of 2000 (see Early 2000), so presumably he could be a participant in secret meetings.
Investigator Confirms Closed-Door Meetings - Ray Fournier, a State Department official who will investigate al-Awlaki after 9/11, will say: “He was meeting with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar in the ante room off of the Rabat mosque. Just the three of them. It stands to reason that when three people get together and two of them end up being hijackers that end up in the Pentagon, they’re obviously discussing how they’re going to stay on track.… He’s absolving them of their sins. He’s making sure that their cover within Western culture is being maintained. He’s making sure they’re going to stay operational.” Fournier also claims that al-Awlaki was radicalized before the hijackers came to San Diego. (Sharma 6/10/2010)
Hijackers and Al-Awlaki Reunite in Virginia - Around August 2000, al-Awlaki resigns as imam and travels to unknown “various countries.” In early 2001, he will be appointed the imam to a much larger mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. (Copley News 10/1/2001) Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and fellow hijacker Hani Hanjour will move to Virginia and attend al-Awlaki’s mosque there (see March 2001 and After). By 2008, US intelligence will conclude that al-Awlaki is an al-Qaeda operative (see February 27, 2008).
On February 1, 2000, 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar allegedly meet Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, by pure chance. Alhazmi and Almihdhar had arrived in Los Angeles from overseas on January 15 (see January 15, 2000). On February 1, al-Bayoumi drives about two hours from where he lives in San Diego to Los Angeles. He is driving with Cayson Bin Don, an US citizen formerly known as Clayton Morgan who converted to Islam and became a supporter of radical militant causes. (Lefkowitz and Vidino 4/27/2005)
Al-Bayoumi Met with Saudi Consulate Official - Al-Bayoumi just had a one hour meeting with Fahad al Thumairy, an employee of the Saudi embassy suspected to have radical militant ties. (Al Thumairy will later be deported from the US due to alleged terrorist links (see May 6-8, 2003).) What al-Bayoumi and al Thumairy discuss is unknown, but phone records indicate they had been in contact since 1998 (see December 1998-December 2000). (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 12-13)
Meeting at Restaurant - After the meeting, al-Bayoumi rejoins Cayson Bin Don and they go to a Middle Eastern restaurant several miles from the Los Angeles airport. Al-Bayoumi and Bin Don will both be interviewed about this later and describe similar stories. Supposedly, al-Bayoumi hears Arabic being spoken at an adjacent table, and invites the two strangers, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, to join them. Alhazmi says that he and Almihdhar do not feel comfortable in Los Angeles as they find the city too big and intimidating. Al-Bayoumi offers to be of help if the two of them decide to move to San Diego. Al-Bayoumi and Bin Don then leave the restaurant and visit the Culver City mosque a few blocks away (Al Thumairy is also the imam at that mosque). Then they return to San Diego. The two hijackers move to San Diego a few days later, and al-Bayoumi helps them extensively. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/8/2001 ; Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 12-13; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 217-218) Al-Bayoumi will later claim that this first contact with the hijackers is accidental. However, one FBI source will later recall that before al-Bayoumi drove to Los Angeles that day, he said he was going “to pick up visitors.” (US Congress 7/24/2003 ; Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
Problems with Account - There are numerous problems with Bin Don’s account. He recalls the meeting took place between December 1999 and February 2000, so it just as easily could have taken place on January 15, the day the hijackers first arrived. Also, when initially questioned by the FBI, he will claim that he first met the two hijackers at a party in San Diego. Asked why he failed to remember the restaurant meeting, he will point out he has ADD (attention deficit disorder). He will also concede that there was a “remote possibility” he could have been used as an alibi or cover by al-Bayoumi for the meeting. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/8/2001 ) Additionally, several days after 9/11, Bin Don will tell two police officers that he supported the 9/11 attack and that he would never tip authorities off if he knew of an impending attack. Later in the month, he attempts to purchase an assault rifle and handgun. Then, in comments to the New York Post in October 2001, he says, “I would consider it more noble for me to go and get myself out of the country, renounce my citizenship, end up in Afghanistan, pick up a gun and fight alongside everyone else against the enemy—American soldiers.” (Lefkowitz and Vidino 4/27/2005) The 9/11 Commission will later note that there are inconsistencies and problems with both al-Bayoumi’s and Bin Don’s accounts of the meeting. The Commission will conclude: “We do not know whether the lunch encounter occurred by chance or design. We know about it because al-Bayoumi told law enforcement that it happened.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 217) A former top FBI official working on the al-Bayoumi investigation will later claim, “We firmly believed that [al-Bayoumi] had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them that day was more than coincidence.” (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003) Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), co-chair of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, will comment, “That a suspected Saudi spy would drive 125 miles to a meeting at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, where he would meet with a consular officer with suspected terrorist ties, and then drive another 7 miles to the one Middle Eastern restaurant—out of more than 134 Middle Eastern restaurants in Los Angeles—where he would happen to sit next to two future terrorists, to whom he would happen to offer friendship and support, cannot credibly be described as a coincidence.” (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 12-13)
Hijackers Already Living with Al-Bayoumi - Furthermore, there is evidence the two hijackers actually stayed in al-Bayoumi’s San Diego apartment from January 15, the day they arrived, until the day after this supposed meeting (see January 15-February 2, 2000).
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move to San Diego and live there openly. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ) They move into apartment 150 in the Parkwood Apartments. On their rental application, they indicate they have been staying in Omar al-Bayoumi’s apartment in the same complex since January 15, the day they arrived in the US (see January 15-February 2, 2000). Al-Bayoumi is suspected to be both an advance man and a Saudi spy (see January 15-February 2000). They will stay in that apartment until mid-May 2000, when they move to another place in San Diego (see May 10-Mid-December 2000). Hijacker Hani Hanjour joins them as a roommate in February 2000 but apparently does not stay long. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/18/2001; Thornton 9/21/2001) The hijackers use their real names on their rental agreement (US Congress 9/20/2002) , driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, credit cards (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) , car purchase, and bank account. Alhazmi is even listed in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book. (Lipka 9/28/2001; Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) Neighbors notice odd behavior: They have no furniture, they are constantly using cell phones on the balcony, constantly playing flight simulator games, keep to themselves, and strange cars and limousines pick them up for short rides in the middle of the night (see February 2000-Early September 2001). (Mcgeary and van Biema 9/24/2001; Cloud 9/24/2001; Goldstein 9/30/2001)
According to phone records, four calls take place between imam Anwar al-Awlaki and Omar al-Bayoumi on February 4, 2000. This is the same day 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move into their own apartment in the Parkwood Apartments complex in San Diego (see February 4-Mid-May 2000). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 517) On this day, al-Bayoumi is the co-signer and guarantor on their lease, and pays their first months’ rent and deposit. It is possible they are using al-Bayoumi’s phone at this time. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 ; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 517) An FBI agent who investigated the calls will later say that he is 98 percent certain that the phone is being used by Alhazmi and Almihdhar at the time. The phone will call al-Awlaki on February 10, 16, and 18 as well (see Spring 2000). (9/11 Commission 11/17/2003 ) Al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, helps the hijackers settle in San Diego in many ways (see January 15-February 2000). Al-Awlaki is the imam for the hijackers at the Al-Ribat Al-Islami mosque (also known as Rabat) on the La Mesa-San Diego border (see February-August 2000). US investigators will later conclude he is connected to al-Qaeda and probably involved in the 9/11 plot. (Schmidt 2/27/2008) Al-Awlaki is the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation at the time these calls are made, but the investigation is closed one month later (see June 1999-March 2000).
According to leaks from the still-classified part of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, monthly payments to Omar al-Bayoumi increase significantly at this time. Al-Bayoumi has been receiving a salary from the Saudi civil authority of about $500 a month. However, shortly after hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move to San Diego, al-Bayoumi’s salary increases to about $3,000 to $3,500 a month (Johnston and Jehl 7/29/2003) It is not clear whether this pay spike is from his Dallah Avco job, or an additional payment by the Saudi government (Johnston and Jehl 7/29/2003; Risen and Johnston 8/2/2003) , but the pay spike appears to be a separate stream of money, because another report indicates his Dallah Avco job started with $3,000 a month payments and remained consistent. (Simpson 8/11/2003) It also fits in with his claims to acquaintances at the time that he is receiving a regular government scholarship. (McDermott 9/1/2002)
A Saudi citizen named Osama Basnan, who had an apparent connection to Eritrean Islamic Jihad in the early 1990s (see May-December 1992), lives across the street from 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and attends the same mosque in San Diego as them. He will later be alleged to have known the two men, but he will deny this. He will, however, admit to knowing one of their associates, Omar al-Bayoumi. (Thornton 10/22/2002; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat 11/28/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 175-7 ; Alkhereiji 8/5/2003) In early 2000, a US Army program called Able Danger identifies four of the hijackers as members of the so-called “Brooklyn” cell after the program links them to mosques that were visited by associates of the “Blind Shiekh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see January-February 2000). The US Army has not disclosed the identities of the sheikh’s associates, but it is possible that Osama Basnan, who is believed to have held a party for the sheikh in 1992 (see April 1998), is one of them.
An unnamed FBI agent who investigates suspected Saudi spy Omar al-Bayoumi after 9/11 will later tell the 9/11 Commission that he is 98 percent sure that future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar use al-Bayoumi’s cell phone during the first couple of months of 2000. For instance, a San Diego associate of al-Bayoumi’s will later state in an interview that when he received a page on February 15, 2000 for al-Bayoumi’s cell phone, he called the number and found he was speaking to Nawaf Alhazmi instead of al-Bayoumi. There are four calls from al-Bayoumi’s cell phone to radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki on February 4, 2000 (see February 4, 2000). There are calls to al-Awlaki on February 10, 16, and 18 as well. The agent will also note that there are numerous other calls on this phone from this time period that have never been investigated, and this should be an issue of grave concern. (9/11 Commission 11/17/2003 )
While future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar live in the house of an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, the asset continues to have contact with his FBI handler. The handler, Steven Butler, later claims that during the summer, Shaikh mentions the names “Nawaf” and “Khalid” in passing and says that they are renting rooms from him. (Isikoff 9/9/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ; Hettena 7/25/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/23/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 220) In early media reports after 9/11, the two will be said to have moved in around September 2000, but the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will imply that Shaikh lied about this, and they moved in much earlier. Alhazmi stays until December (see December 12, 2000-March 2001); Almihdhar appears to be mostly out of the US after June (see June 10, 2000). (Thornton 9/16/2001; Mollenkamp et al. 9/17/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 157 ) On one occasion, Shaikh tells Butler on the phone he cannot talk because Khalid is in the room. (Isikoff 9/9/2002)
Shaikh Refuses to Reveal Hijackers' Last Names Despite Suspicious Contacts - Shaikh tells Butler Alhazmi and Almihdhar are good, religious Muslims who are legally in the US to visit and attend school. Butler asks Shaikh for their last names, but Shaikh refuses to provide them. Butler is not told that they are pursuing flight training. Shaikh tells Butler that they are apolitical and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, he later admits that Alhazmi has “contacts with at least four individuals [he] knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom [he] had previously reported to the FBI.” Three of these four people are being actively investigated at the time the hijackers are there. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ) The report will mention Osama Mustafa as one, and Shaikh will admit that suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi was a friend. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ; Reza, Connell, and Lopez 7/25/2003) Alhazmi and Shaikh will remain in contact after Alhazmi leaves San Diego in December. Alhazmi will call Shaikh to tell him he intends to take flying lessons in Arizona and that Almihdhar has returned to Yemen. He also will e-mail Shaikh three times; one of the e-mails is signed “Smer,” an apparent attempt to conceal his identity, which Shaikh later says he finds strange. However, Alhazmi will not reply to e-mails Shaikh sends him in February and March of 2001. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223)
Best Chance to Stop the 9/11 Plot? - The FBI will later conclude that Shaikh is not involved in the 9/11 plot, but it has serious doubts about his credibility. After 9/11 he will give inaccurate information and has an “inconclusive” polygraph examination about his foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack. The FBI will believe he had contact with another of the 9/11 hijackers, Hani Hanjour, but claimed not to recognize him. There will be other “significant inconsistencies” in Shaikh’s statements about the hijackers, including when he first met them and his later meetings with them. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude that had the asset’s contacts with the hijackers been capitalized upon, it “would have given the San Diego FBI field office perhaps the US intelligence community’s best chance to unravel the September 11 plot.” (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ) The FBI will try to prevent Butler and Shaikh from testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October 2002. Butler will end up testifying (see October 9, 2002), but Shaikh will not (see October 5, 2002). (Schmidt 10/11/2002)
Anonymous government sources later claim that Mohamed Atta visits fellow hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Omar al-Bayoumi. These same sources claim al-Bayoumi is identified after September 11 as an “advance man” for al-Qaeda. (Seper 11/26/2002) Other reports have suggested Atta visited Alhazmi and Almihdhar in San Diego, but the FBI has not confirmed this. (US Congress 7/24/2003 )
Yazeed al-Salmi lives with future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi for about a month in the San Diego house of an FBI informant. Alhazmi has lived in the house with Khalid Almihdhar and FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh since May 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000), but Almihdhar left to go overseas in June and did not return to San Diego (see June 10, 2000). Apparently there are no other new roommates for the rest of the time Alhazmi lives at the house until December 2000 except for al-Salmi. Al-Salmi moves in with Alhazmi and Shaikh just three days after arriving in the US on a student visa. Hijacker associate and suspected Saudi spy Omar al-Bayoumi, who nominally reports to al-Salmi’s uncle, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi of the Saudi Civil Aviation ministry, helped al-Salmi find the accommodation (see September 1998-July 1999). Curiously, al-Salmi was a childhood friend of 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour in Saudi Arabia. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 10/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 139 ) In early September, Alhazmi apparently helps al-Salmi cash some checks (see September 5, 2000). After al-Salmi moves out of the house, he moves into a nearby apartment with Modhar Abdullah and others. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518) After 9/11, there will be reports that both al-Salmi and Abdullah may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan are friends with each other and suspected associates of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. On June 23, 2001, al-Bayoumi moves out of the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego where Almihdhar and Alhazmi had lived the year before, and possibly live in again just before 9/11 (see Early September 2001). Basnan had been living in an apartment complex nearby, but he moves into the Parkwood Apartments in July. On the rental application, Basnan lists al-Bayoumi as a personal reference and a friend. A classified FBI report shortly after 9/11 suggests that the fact that Basnan moved in shortly after al-Bayoumi left “could indicate he succeeded Omar al-Bayoumi and may be undertaking activities on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia.” Both Basnan and al-Bayoumi have been suspected to be Saudi government agents. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 ) Al-Bayoumi moves to Britain (see September 21-28, 2001). Basnan remains in San Diego through 9/11. According to one US official, Basnan later “celebrate[s] the heroes of September 11” and talks about “what a wonderful, glorious day it had been” at a party shortly after the attacks. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; Reno 9/2003)
Omar al-Bayoumi, suspected al-Qaeda advance man and possible Saudi agent, is arrested, and held for one week in Britain. He moved from San Diego to Britain in late June 2001 (see June 23-July 2001) and is a studying at Aston University Business School in Birmingham when he is taken into custody by British authorities working with the FBI. (Gembrowski and Aryan 10/27/2001; Goldstein and Booth 12/29/2001; MSNBC 11/27/2002) During a search of al-Bayoumi’s Birmingham apartment (which includes ripping up the floorboards), the FBI finds the names and phone numbers of two employees of the Saudi embassy’s Islamic Affairs Department. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) “There was a link there,” a Justice Department official says, adding that the FBI interviewed the employees and “that was the end of that, in October or November of 2001.” The official adds, “I don’t know why he had those names.” Nail al-Jubeir, chief spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in Washington, says al-Bayoumi “called [the numbers] constantly.” (Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002) They also discover jihadist literature, and conclude he “has connections to terrorist elements,” including al-Qaeda. (Schmidt and Drehle 7/25/2003) However, he is released after a week. (Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002; Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) British intelligence officials are frustrated that the FBI failed to give them information that would have enabled them to keep al-Bayoumi in custody longer than the seven days allowed under British anti-terrorism laws. (Ford and McGrory 10/19/2001; KGTV 10 (San Diego) 10/25/2001) Even FBI officials in San Diego appear to have not been told of al-Bayoumi’s arrest by FBI officials in Britain until after he is released. (Bassey 10/21/2001) Newsweek claims that classified sections of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry indicate the Saudi Embassy pushed for al-Bayoumi’s release— “another possible indicator of his high-level [Saudi] connections.” (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003) A San Diego FBI agent later secretly testifies that supervisors fail to act on evidence connecting to a Saudi money trail. The FBI is said to conduct a massive investigation of al-Bayoumi within days of 9/11, which shows he has connections to individuals who have been designated by the US as foreign terrorists. (Bassey 10/21/2001; US Congress 7/24/2003 ; Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003) But two years later witnesses connecting him to Saudi money apparently are not interviewed by the FBI. Al-Bayoumi continues with his studies in Britain and is still there into 2002, and yet is still not rearrested. (Newsweek 10/29/2001; Goldstein and Booth 12/29/2001) He disappears into Saudi Arabia by the time he reenters the news in November 2002. (Reno 9/2003)
A classified FBI report on this date indicates that alleged hijacker associate Osama Basnan has long-time links to both the bin Laden family and the Saudi government. The report states that Basnan has “been determined to have known Osama bin Laden’s family in Saudi Arabia and to have telephonic contact with members of bin Laden’s family who are currently in the US.” It also states, “The possibility of [Basnan] being affiliated with the Saudi Arabian Government or the Saudi Arabian Intelligence Service is supported by [Basnan] listing his employment in 1992 as the—.” Unfortunately, the rest of that sentence remains redacted. The report further notes that the fact that in July 2001 Basnan moved into the same San Diego apartment building where hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi lived right after al-Bayoumi moved away “could indicate he succeeded Omar al-Bayoumi and may be undertaking activities on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia” (see June 23-July 2001). The FBI report, which will be obtained by the website Intelwire.com in 2008, is heavily redacted, and all mentions of Basnan’s name appear to be redacted. However, one can sometimes determine when Basnan is being referred to. For instance, the same paragraph that mentions his link to the bin Laden family also says the same person with that link hosted a party for Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1992, and press reports have indicated that person was Basnan (see October 17, 1992). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
A CD-ROM containing a picture of a young Saudi man named Saud al-Rashid is seized in an al-Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. The CD also contains the pictures of three 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Abdulaziz Alomari, placed in the same folder with the picture of al-Rashid. The pictures are all passport photos or pages of entry and exit stamps from the same passports. All the computer files of the pictures were saved in May 2001. A senior US official says that investigators “were able to take this piece of information and it showed clear signals or lines that [al-Rashid] was connected to 9/11.” Media reports in 2002 say that the raid takes place on August 15, but an FBI report made public years later will show the raid took place on May 16 but the importance of the CD-ROM’s contents was not discovered until August 15. (Associated Press 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 526; Federal Bureau of Investigation 2010)
Al-Rashid Escapes Dragnet - On August 21, six days after the files on the CD-ROM are discovered, the US will issue a worldwide dragnet to find al-Rashid. (Associated Press 8/21/2002) But they are unable to catch him because a few days later, he flees from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and turns himself in to the Saudi authorities. The Saudis apparently will not try him for any crime or allow the FBI to interview him. (CNN 8/26/2002; CNN 8/31/2002)
Al-Rashid's Background - Al-Rashid was in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, where he met 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi “once or twice” in a guest house. (Johnston and Jehl 7/29/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 526) Although detainees identify him as a candidate 9/11 hijacker, he claims not to have met Osama bin Laden or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), or even to have heard of al-Qaeda. Under interrogation, KSM will say al-Rashid was headstrong and immature and dropped out of the plot after returning to Saudi Arabia for a visa, either due to second thoughts or the influence of his family. However, doubts will be raised about the reliability of KSM’s statements under interrogation (see August 6, 2007). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 526) Intriguingly, al-Rashid’s father is Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official who paid a salary to Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of both Almihdhar and Alhazmi who is later suspected of being a Saudi agent. (Johnston and Jehl 7/29/2003)
Passport Clue - Also intriguingly, the pictures from Saeed Alghamdi’s and Khalid Almihdhar’s passports show the passports were issued at “Holy Capital.” This may be an indicator placed by the Saudi government to show that the passport holders are radicals. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2010)
Other Evidence? - Florida FBI agent Tom Yowell will later mention to the 9/11 Commission that he remembers some other 9/11-related evidence captured in a May 2002 Karachi raid, including mention of the address of a Virginia post office box (see February 19-20, 2001 and April 3-4, 2001 and around) and videos of the 9/11 hijackers. But which hijackers were videotaped, and where and when, is not mentioned. (9/11 Commission 12/4/2003 )
Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, and his wife are arrested for visa fraud. (Isikoff 11/22/2002; Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002) One report says he is arrested for allegedly having links to Omar al-Bayoumi. (Almotawa 11/26/2002) On October 22, Basnan and his wife, Majeda Dweikat, admit they used false immigration documents to stay in the US. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 10/22/2002) Possible financial connections between Basnan and al-Bayoumi, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, and the Saudi royal family are known to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry (as well as the FBI and CIA) at this time. Remarkably, Basnan is deported to Saudi Arabia on November 17, 2002. His wife is deported to Jordan the same day. (Schmidt and Allen 11/24/2002) Less than a week after the deportations, new media reports make Basnan a widely known suspect. (Isikoff 11/22/2002)
Newsweek reports that hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar may have received money from Saudi Arabia’s royal family through two Saudis, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. Newsweek bases its report on information leaked from the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October. (Isikoff 11/22/2002; Isikoff 11/22/2002; Johnston and Risen 11/23/2002; Farah 11/23/2003) Al-Bayoumi is in Saudi Arabia by this time. Basnan was deported to Saudi Arabia just five days earlier. Saudi officials and Princess Haifa immediately deny any connections to Islamic militants. (Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002) Newsweek reports that while the money trail “could be perfectly innocent… it is nonetheless intriguing—and could ultimately expose the Saudi government to some of the blame for 9/11…” (Isikoff 11/22/2002) Some Saudi newspapers, which usually reflect government thinking, claim the leak is blackmail to pressure Saudi Arabia into supporting war with Iraq. (MSNBC 11/27/2002) Senior US government officials claim the FBI and CIA failed to aggressively pursue leads that might have linked the two hijackers to Saudi Arabia. This causes a bitter dispute between FBI and CIA officials and the intelligence panel investigating the 9/11 attacks. (Johnston and Risen 11/23/2002) A number of senators, including Richard Shelby (R-AL), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Bob Graham (D-FL), Joseph Biden (D-DE), and Charles Schumer (D-NY), express concern about the Bush administration’s action (or non-action) regarding the Saudi royal family and its possible role in funding Islamic militants. (Reuters 11/24/2002; Johnston and Shenon 11/25/2002) Lieberman says, “I think it’s time for the president to blow the whistle and remember what he said after September 11—you’re either with us or you’re with the al-Qaeda.” (ABC News 11/25/2002) FBI officials strongly deny any deliberate connection between these two men and the Saudi government or the hijackers (Shannon, Zagorin, and Duffy 11/24/2002) , but later even more connections between them and both entities are revealed. (US Congress 7/24/2003 )
The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report concludes that at least six 9/11 hijackers received “substantial assistance” from associates in the US, though it’s “not known to what extent any of these contacts in the United States were aware of the plot.” These hijackers came into contact with at least 14 people who were investigated by the FBI before 9/11, and four of those investigations were active while the hijackers were present. But in June 2002, FBI Director Mueller testified: “While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that would have alerted law enforcement and doing nothing that exposed them to domestic coverage. As far as we know, they contacted no known terrorist sympathizers in the United States” (see June 18, 2002). CIA Director Tenet made similar comments at the same time, and another FBI official stated, “[T]here were no contacts with anybody we were looking at inside the United States.” These comments are untrue, because one FBI document from November 2001 uncovered by the Inquiry concludes that the six lead hijackers “maintained a web of contacts both in the United States and abroad. These associates, ranging in degrees of closeness, include friends and associates from universities and flight schools, former roommates, people they knew through mosques and religious activities, and employment contacts. Other contacts provided legal, logistical, or financial assistance, facilitated US entry and flight school enrollment, or were known from [al-Qaeda]-related activities or training.” (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) The declassified sections of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report show the hijackers have contact with:
Mamoun Darkazanli, investigated several times starting in 1993 (see 1993; Late 1998); the CIA makes repeated efforts to turn him into an informer (see December 1999).
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, investigated by Germany since at least 1997 (see 1996), the Germans periodically inform the CIA what they learn.
Osama Basnan, US intelligence is informed of his connections to Islamic militants several times in early 1990s but fails to investigate (see April 1998).
Omar al-Bayoumi, investigated in San Diego from 1998-1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).
Anwar al-Awlaki, investigated in San Diego from 1999-2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
Osama “Sam” Mustafa, owner of a San Diego gas station, and investigated beginning in 1991 (see Autumn 2000).
Ed Salamah, manager of the same gas station, and an uncooperative witness in 2000 (see Autumn 2000).
An unnamed friend of Hani Hanjour, whom the FBI tries to investigate in 2001.
An unnamed associate of Marwan Alshehhi, investigated beginning in 1999.
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who had contact with Basnan, al-Bayoumi, al-Awlaki, Mustafa, and Salamah, “maintained a number of other contacts in the local Islamic community during their time in San Diego, some of whom were also known to the FBI through counterterrorist inquiries and investigations,” but details of these individuals and possible others are still classified. (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) None of the above people have been arrested or even publicly charged with any crime associated with terrorism, although Zammar is in prison in Syria.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz vows not to extradite Omar al-Bayoumi, who has been alleged to be a Saudi spy who assisted two of the 9/11 hijackers in the US. He says, “We have never handed over a Saudi to a state or a foreign side, and we will never do it.” (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 224, 277)
In the wake of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report, and “under intense pressure from Congress,” as the Boston Globe puts it, the FBI and CIA reopen an investigation into whether Saudi Arabian officials aided the 9/11 plot. (Bender 8/3/2003) In early August, Saudi Arabia allows the FBI to interview Omar al-Bayoumi. However, the interview takes place in Saudi Arabia, and apparently on his terms, with Saudi government handlers present. (New York Times 8/5/2003; Associated Press 8/6/2003) Says one anonymous government terrorism consultant, “They are revisiting everybody. The [FBI] did not do a very good job of unraveling the conspiracy behind the hijackers.” (Bender 8/3/2003) But by September, the Washington Post reports that the FBI has concluded that the idea al-Bayoumi was a Saudi government agent is “without merit and has largely abandoned further investigation… The bureau’s September 11 investigative team, which is still tracking down details of the plot, has reached similar conclusions about other associates named or referred to in the congressional inquiry report.” (Eggen 9/10/2003) Yet another article claims that by late August, some key people who interacted with al-Bayoumi have yet to be interviewed by the FBI. “Countless intelligence leads that might help solve” the mystery of a Saudi connection to the hijackers “appear to have been underinvestigated or completely overlooked by the FBI, particularly in San Diego.” (Reno 9/2003) Not only were they never interviewed when the investigation was supposedly reopened, they were not interviewed in the months after 9/11 either, when the FBI supposedly opened an “intense investigation” of al-Bayoumi, visiting “every place he was known to have gone, and [compiling] 4,000 pages of documents detailing his activities.” (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
In the wake of the release of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s full report, anonymous officials leak some details from a controversial, completely censored 28-page section that focuses on possible Saudi support for 9/11. According to leaks given to the New York Times, the section says that Omar al-Bayoumi and/or Osama Basnan “had at least indirect links with two hijackers [who] were probably Saudi intelligence agents and may have reported to Saudi government officials.” It also says that Anwar al-Awlaki “was a central figure in a support network that aided the same two hijackers.” Most connections drawn in the report between the men, Saudi intelligence, and 9/11 is said to be circumstantial. (Risen and Johnston 8/2/2003) One key section is said to read, “On the one hand, it is possible that these kinds of connections could suggest, as indicated in a CIA memorandum, ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists… On the other hand, it is also possible that further investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations.’”(see August 2, 2002) Some of the most sensitive information involves what US agencies are doing currently to investigate Saudi business figures and organizations. (Lumpkin and Solomon 8/2/2003) According to the New Republic, the section outlines “connections between the hijacking plot and the very top levels of the Saudi royal family.” An anonymous official is quoted as saying, “There’s a lot more in the 28 pages than money. Everyone’s chasing the charities. They should be chasing direct links to high levels of the Saudi government. We’re not talking about rogue elements. We’re talking about a coordinated network that reaches right from the hijackers to multiple places in the Saudi government.… If the people in the administration trying to link Iraq to al-Qaeda had one-one-thousandth of the stuff that the 28 pages has linking a foreign government to al-Qaeda, they would have been in good shape.… If the 28 pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight.” (Ackerman 8/1/2003) The section also is critical that the issue of foreign government support remains unresolved. One section reads, “In their testimony, neither CIA or FBI officials were able to address definitely the extent of such support for the hijackers, globally or within the United States, or the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature. This gap in intelligence community coverage is unacceptable.” (Bender 8/3/2003)
It is reported that the FBI has closed down their investigation into Saudis Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. The Associated Press reports, “The FBI concluded at most the two Saudi men occasionally provided information to their kingdom or helped Saudi visitors settle into the United States, but did so in compliance with Muslim custom of being kind to strangers rather than out of some relationship with Saudi intelligence.” (Solomon 3/24/2004) Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) had cochaired the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that found considerable evidence tying these two men to two 9/11 hijackers and also to the Saudi government. When he sees this news report, he contacts the FBI and is told the report is not correct and that the investigation into the two men is still ongoing. A month later, FBI Director Robert Mueller tells Graham that the report was correct, and the case has been closed. Graham asks Mueller to speak to the two FBI agents who reached this conclusion and find out why they reached it. He asks that he should be allowed the same access to them that the Associated Press had been given. Both Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft refuse to give clearance for the agents to speak to Graham. Graham then writes a letter with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), again asking for clarification and the right to meet with the agents. Their request is denied. Graham concludes that this is something it “seems that neither the FBI nor the Bush administration wants the American people to find out about.” (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 224-227)
Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) alleges that the White House has covered up possible Saudi Arabian government connections to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. In an interview to promote his new book entitled Intelligence Matters, he contends that evidence relating to these two hijackers, who lived in San Diego, “present[s] a compelling case that there was Saudi assistance” to the 9/11 plot. (Graham and Nussbaum 2004; Eckert 9/7/2004) In the words of author Philip Shenon, Graham is “convinced that a number of sympathetic Saudi officials, possibly within the sprawling Islamic Affairs Ministry, had known that al-Qaeda terrorists were entering the United States beginning in 2000 in preparation for some sort of attack,” and that “Saudi officials had directed spies operating in the United States to assist them.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 51) Graham also concludes that President Bush directed the FBI “to restrain and obfuscate” investigations into these ties, possibly to protect US-Saudi relations. The San Diego Union-Tribune notes, “Graham co-chaired the exhaustive Congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks and is privy to still-classified information about the probe.” Graham claims that Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan are Saudi intelligence agents. He also claims that the FBI deliberately blocked his inquiry’s attempts to interview Abdussattar Shaikh, the FBI informant who was a landlord to the above-mentioned hijackers (see November 18, 2002). The questions the inquiry wanted to ask Shaikh went unanswered because of FBI maneuvering. (Graham and Nussbaum 2004; Eckert 9/7/2004)
Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike