Senators Share Concerns of FBI Manipulation in 9/11 Case

MANHATTAN (CN) — A bipartisan coalition called for an investigation of how the FBI has handled subpoenas in the lawsuit that calls Saudi Arabia complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

“The conflicts of interest could not be more apparent, raising obvious concerns that the process is being manipulated to avoid disclosures that may prove embarrassing to the FBI or individual FBI officials,” family members of the 9/11 victims wrote in a statement accompanying the Monday letter to the Department of Justice’s inspector general.

Firefighters work the scene on Sept. 11, 2001, after a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In addition to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Richard Blumenthal — Democrats from New York and Connecticut, respectively — the letter is co-signed by Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.

“It appears, both due to information provided to our offices by the families in good faith, and through related reporting in the New York Times, that there may have been major abnormalities in the FBI’s handling of that subpoena that deserve your attention,” the senators wrote.

They added later: “Any lack of integrity in the FBI’s handling of this subpoena is wholly unacceptable,” they wrote.

The letter is a remarkable flex of congressional muscle in a lawsuit that owes its continued life to legislative action.

Before Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act in 2016, the 9/11 families had been working since 2003 to penetrate the sovereign immunity that otherwise shielded Saudi Arabia from suit.

The families subpoenaed the FBI two years ago after U.S. District Judge George Daniels granted them limited discovery to explore Saudi Arabia’s connections to former consular official Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi, a reputed intelligence officer.

Al-Thumairy’s alleged ties to hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi are detailed in a 28-page section of the 9/11 Commission Report that was declassified in 2016.

With attribution to public reporting, Monday’s letter from the senators says, “a more senior Saudi government official” is known to be one of the accomplices “who ‘tasked’ Bayoumi and Thumairy to help the hijackers.”

The identity of this third Saudi official is not public. 

Terry Strada, the national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, applauded the senators for their action.

“We greatly appreciate that these senators are urging this long-overdue investigation, because we are sick and tired of our government’s fixation on secrecy at the expense of the truth,” Strada said in a statement. “First our government pointlessly hid the ‘28 pages’ of the 9/11 Joint Inquiry report, and then urged Congress to deny us the right to expose the Saudi role in the mass murders of September 11. Now, they are hiding the evidence that shows they have been lying all along. Enough already.”

Monday’s letter asks Inspector General Michael Horowitz of the Justice Department to probe alleged “departures from established processes for responding to civil discovery demands,” as well as “possible misstatements to the federal court presiding over the litigation about the actual status of investigations.” 

“Circumstances that leave the impression that our government is hiding facts about 9/11 from the families and public tear at the very fabric of our democracy, and erode trust in our government,” the letter states. “The American people must have confidence that their government is not hiding facts about 9/11, for any reason.”

A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on the letter. 

Attorneys for Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 families return to court for a hearing on Friday, following up on proceedings last month addressing allegations that the kingdom intimidated possible witnesses.

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