On Thursday (2), the US government received requests from relatives of victims of September 11 to investigate an alleged role of Saudi Arabia in the attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers from the planes that took part in the attack were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden, who was killed in 2011.
A government commission, which ended in 2004, found no evidence that Saudi Arabia had directly financed al Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks, but it left open the possibility that Saudi authorities could have participated in the planning alone.
The Middle East country — one of the main US allies in the region — has always stated that it played no role in the attacks.
This Thursday’s order, sent to Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz, is signed by 3,500 people, all family members of victims, first responders or survivors of the attacks. At the time, nearly 3,000 people were killed, 2,600 in the attack on the World Trade Center, 125 at the Pentagon and 265 passengers from the hijacked planes.
The authors of the request suspect that, at the time, the FBI, US federal police, lied or destroyed evidence linking Saudi Arabia to the kidnappers. “The circumstances make it likely that one or more FBI officials committed misconduct with the intent of destroying or hiding evidence to prevent its disclosure,” they write.
The letter further asks Horowitz to investigate FBI statements, given in response to a subpoena from the families, that the agency “has lost or is simply no longer able to find important evidence about individuals who provided substantial support within the US to the kidnappers. September 11th”.
Among the evidence requested by the authors of the letter are telephone records and a video of a party in California with the presence of two of the kidnappers, recorded more than a year before the attacks.
“Given the importance of the missing evidence in question to the 9/11 investigation, as well as the FBI’s mishandling of that evidence, an innocent explanation is not credible,” they emphasized.
“Our government is either lying about the evidence it has or is actively destroying it, and I don’t know which is worse,” said Brett Eagleson, son of one of the bombers.
The FBI declined to comment on the letter.
Since 2001, the victims’ families have demanded access to US government documents regarding the bombing investigations, including secret reports relating to the fact that Saudi Arabia aided or financed any of the 19 terrorists associated with al Qaeda.
At the time, the United States accused the Taliban, then occupiers of power in Afghanistan, of harboring the terrorist group, which culminated in the American invasion of the Asian country — which ended this week.
Even with no evidence that Saudi Arabia supported the 9/11 terrorists, family members of some 2,600 dead and more than 20,000 injured have sued the Middle Eastern country, seeking billions of dollars in reparations. Similar actions were filed by companies and insurance companies.
The demand for transparency in investigations has been gaining strength in recent months. In August, more than 1,600 people directly affected by the bombings urged Biden not to organize memorial events to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombings and to at least release secret documents that might show Saudi leaders’ alleged support for the terrorists.
Three days later, the Department of Justice informed, as part of a court case, that it had decided to review the allegations it had previously given in order not to grant the documents to the victims’ next of kin.
“My administration is committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law,” Biden said on Aug. 9, in a statement hailing the department’s commitment to a new review.
Saudi Arabia is one of the main US allies in the Middle East and the relationship between the two countries became even stronger under former President Donald Trump. During the election campaign, Biden pledged a hard line to the Saudis, accused of ignoring human rights and persecuting critics.
In February, the CIA released a report that blames Prince Mohammed bin Salman for ordering the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.
On the same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions for 76 people from Saudi Arabia who “would have been directly involved in activities against extraterritorial dissidents”.
Despite the findings, bin Salman was not punished by the Americans.