“From the first weeks after the 9/11 attacks, suspicions about a possible Saudi government role in the plot have focused on a mysterious, 42-year-old graduate student who welcomed the first two Qaida hijackers after they landed in Los Angeles in January 2000.
The Saudi student, Omar al-Bayoumi, claimed to have met the two terrorists entirely by chance; he said he was just being hospitable when he helped them settle in San Diego. Both the FBI and the 9/11 Commission supported Bayoumi’s account, dismissing the suspicions of agents who thought he might be a Saudi spy.
After nearly 20 years, however, the FBI has changed its story. In documents declassified last year , the bureau affirmed that Bayoumi was in fact an agent of the Saudi intelligence service who worked with Saudi religious officials and reported to the kingdom’s powerful ambassador in Washington.
Those revelations have now become a central point of contention in a long-running federal lawsuit in New York, where 9/11 survivors and relatives of the 2,977 people who were killed are seeking to hold the Saudi government responsible for the attacks.
Lawyers for the families argue that the new evidence so contradicts earlier Saudi claims that they should be allowed to seek new information from the country’s intelligence service about Bayoumi and another official who reportedly aided the hijackers, Fahad al-Thumairy.
‘Saudi Arabia has a duty to tell the truth about the intelligence roles of Bayoumi and Thumairy based on its actual, complete knowledge,’ the plaintiffs wrote in a motion this month [April 2023].
The federal magistrate who is managing discovery in the case, Sarah Netburn, has so far sided with the Saudis, finding ‘no compelling reason’ to reopen the document search or order new interviews with Saudi officials. The families’ lawyers have asked the judge overseeing the case, George B. Daniels, to overrule her.”
– Tim Golden, “Focus of 9/11 Families’ Lawsuit Against Saudi Arabia Turns to a Saudi Student Who May Have Been a Spy,” propublica.org, April 27, 2023