U.S. Invokes “State Secrets” to Keep Intel Given to 9/11 Mastermind’s Defense from Victims
Government documents already provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to lawyers defending 9/11 terrorists continue to be withheld from survivors of the attacks and family members of those who died. The DOJ claims the roughly 25,000 pages of files are “State Secrets,” even though 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s (KSM) attorneys have been granted access. KSM is incarcerated at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and faces a death sentence. His victims and their family members claim in a federal lawsuit that Saudi Arabia helped carry out the 2001 attack and they need the U.S. government documents to help prove it.
A few weeks ago, thousands of 9/11 family members wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr demanding access to the protected intelligence files that could help determine if Saudi Arabian officials are responsible for the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. Fifteen of the 19 Islamic terrorists who hijacked commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field were from Saudi Arabia. Besides KSM, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi helped organize the deadly event. Relatives of the victims assert that the documents being withheld by the U.S. government identify multiple witnesses who transported two of the hijackers to Los Angeles International Airport as well as information involving a terrorist support cell in California and photos identifying members of the support cell.
“This situation is reprehensible and unacceptable,” states the letter which is signed by 3,361 family members. “How can it be that the mastermind behind the deadliest attack on American soil is somehow entitled, under your DOJ’s direction, to relevant U.S. government investigative documents about the 9/11 plot, yet the families whose loved ones were wrenched from us so painfully and ruthlessly that day are prohibited from seeing this same information?” They proceed to accuse the DOJ of manipulating and blocking their pursuit of justice into one of the most significant events in U.S. history. “The FBI, the DOJ, and you, Mr. Barr, turned your backs on the 9/11 community when you chose to side with Saudi Arabia, the sponsor of the 9/11 attacks, over the American people. Your continued misguided and inappropriate obstruction of the 9/11 community’s lawsuit against Saudi Arabia is an affront to the judicial system and justice itself, and a betrayal of the American people you are duty-bound to serve.”
The records requested by the family members include a once-secret FBI probe into Saudi Arabia’s role in the 2001 attacks. It is known as Operation Encore and a Florida nonprofit journalism conglomerate exposed it back in 2016 after suing the government for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A once censored FBI report revealed that in 2012 federal prosecutors and FBI agents in New York planned to charge a suspect for providing material support to Saudi-born hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who helped crash American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. The suspect’s identity was censored in the report, which also listed three “main subjects.” They include a Saudi diplomat and imam at a Los Angeles mosque as well as a Saudi agent named Omar al-Bayoumi and a third man who had “tasked” them with helping the future hijackers. The third man’s name was initially censored, though the FBI inadvertently released it in court papers that became public. He was identified as Musaed al-Jarrah, a former Saudi Foreign Ministry official who worked at the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1999-2000.
Family members of the 9/11 victims end their letter to Barr by writing that they will hold him accountable for the surreptitious and continuous action to derail their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. They also demand that all relevant documents that were improperly labeled as “State Secrets,” with no outside oversight or accountability, be independently reviewed by their investigators and released to the American people. “Your repeated, unjustified, and meritless obstructions to justice for the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history must end immediately,” they write. “The time for you to right this wrong has long passed, and we demand that you stand up for Americans and side with the 9/11 community and join the right side of history.”