New information about suspected Saudi connection to 9/11 hijackers revealed

The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers. Yahoo News Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff details the findings.

Video Transcript


MICHAEL ISIKOFF: The FBI, in what appears to be a screw-up of major proportions, has inadvertently revealed one of the US government's most sensitive secrets about the September 11 terror attacks-- the identity of a mysterious Saudi embassy official in Washington, who agents believed had directed critical support for two al-Qaeda terrorists who were among the hijackers on September 11 flying the American Airlines flight into the Pentagon that killed 125 people.

Now, I should say that there is a lot of debate about just how strong the evidence against the former Saudi embassy official is. And it's been a subject of major dispute within the FBI for years. But the new filing, which a senior US government official confirmed was an error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot.

And perhaps even more significantly, it will bring public attention on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent any internal documents about the FBI investigation into the Saudis from becoming public. Among those who have filed declarations with the court are Attorney General William Barr and acting DNI Director Richard Grenell. They both filed motions saying that any information about the Saudi links were a state secret that would harm national security if it were ever disclosed.

And yet, in this declaration from the FBI, Assistant Director for Counterterrorism, a woman named Jill Sanborn-- she discloses the name of the Saudi embassy official who is at the heart of the case. It's a name that I think fair to say almost no Americans have ever heard of. It's Mussaed al-Jarrah, who was a Saudi embassy official in Washington ministry of foreign affairs, who FBI agents concluded had directed there be support for two 9/11 hijackers who flew into the country in January, 2000 and got significant help from Saudis in Southern California, who lent them money, set them up with bank accounts, found them apartments.

How did that all come about? It's a question that investigators have wondered for years. And the FBI agents who were investigating this believed that this guy, al-Jarrah, at the Saudi embassy directed that the support be given. The problem is, they couldn't prove why he did so. Were-- did he know that these two individuals were in fact al-Qaeda terrorists who were going to commit the 9/11 attacks?

The FBI couldn't prove that. As a result, the case never went anywhere as a criminal matter. But now the families of the 9/11 victims are pushing for full disclosure of this. And they just got a big helping hand, inadvertently, from the FBI.