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FBI accidentally names Saudi official suspected of directing support for 9/11 hijackers

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Um yeah... that Tweet kinda overstates what the article actually says...



It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot.  It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public.  


Some context



A redacted copy of a three-and-a-half page October 2012 FBI “update” about the investigation stated that FBI agents had uncovered “evidence” that Thumairy and Bayoumi had been “tasked” to assist the hijackers by yet another individual whose name was blacked out, prompting lawyers for the families to refer to this person as “the third man” in what they argue is a Saudi-orchestrated conspiracy.


Describing the request by lawyers for the 9/11 families to depose that individual under oath, Sanborn’s declaration says in one instance that it involves “any and all records referring to or relating to Jarrah.” The reference is to Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah, a mid-level Saudi Foreign Ministry official who was assigned to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., in 1999 and 2000. His duties apparently included overseeing the activities of Ministry of Islamic Affairs employees at Saudi-funded mosques and Islamic centers within the United States.


Relatively little is known about Jarrah, but according to former embassy employees, he reported to the Saudi ambassador in the United States (at the time Prince Bandar), and that he was later reassigned to the Saudi missions in Malaysia and Morocco, where he is believed to have been serving as recently as last year, having been promoted to the position of cultural counselor. Jarrah has been on the radar screen of the lawyers for the 9/11 families for some time and is among nine current or former Saudi officials who they suspect have important information about the case and have sought to either question them or get access to FBI documents that mention them.


The families have also tapped former agents to help investigate the activities of the potential witnesses, including Jarrah.  Jarrah “was responsible for the placement of Ministry of Islamic Affairs employees known as guides and propagators posted to the United States, including Fahad Al Thumairy,” according to a separate declaration by Catherine Hunt, a former FBI agent based in Los Angeles who has been assisting the families in the case. 


Hunt conducted her own investigation into the support provided to the hijackers in Southern California. “The FBI believed that al-Jarrah was ‘supporting’ and ‘maintaining’ al-Thumairy during the 9/11 investigation,” she said in her declaration.


Here's the important part...



The Sanborn declaration represents the first public confirmation that the so-called “third man” referred to in the 2012 report was in fact an accredited Saudi diplomat. But all of the FBI evidence the agents had gathered about Jarrah and his communications about the hijackers remain under seal.


Elsewhere in her declaration, Sanborn asserts that the contention that Jarrah “tasked” Thumairy and Bayoumi with assisting the hijackers was more a “theory” of the agents working the case rather than a conclusion based on hard evidence.


One former bureau official familiar with the FBI investigation into the matter, and who asked to speak confidentially, says that agents had developed strong evidence of meetings and communications among Jarrah, Thumairy and Bayoumi in which assistance to Mihdhar and Hazmi, the two hijackers, was believed to have been discussed. 


But the agents were unable to prove that Jarrah, who the agents found had flown to Los Angeles to meet with Thumairy, knew that Mihdhar and Hazmi were members of al-Qaida and were plotting the attacks on U.S. soil, resulting in bitter divisions within the bureau about what to make of the contacts the agents had uncovered.


So yeah once again, that Tweet is getting ahead of itself big time.

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