WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia was so uncooperative in US terror investigations before and after 9/11 that one New York FBI investigator slammed the kingdom as “useless and obstructionist,” according to 28 pages of newly declassified documents released Friday.
The documents suggest the ultra-conservative Islamic theocracy regularly lied to American investigators and that its status as a key US ally in the Middle East helped shield Saudi Arabia from becoming the focus of terror probes.
“Prior to September 11th, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative resources on [redacted] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia’s status as an American ‘ally,’ ” states the document, part of a 2002 congressional joint inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that had been kept secret until now.
The papers also allege the Saudis hampered US efforts to investigate al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
“There is a May 1996 memo from the [CIA’s] Counterterrorist Center [redacted] stating that the Saudis had stopped providing background information or other assistance on bin Laden because bin Laden had too much information about official Saudi dealings with Islamic extremists in the 1980s for Riyadh to deliver him into US hands,” the papers said.
In another revelation, the documents said bin Laden’s half brother, Abdullah bin Laden, was living in the United States a year after the 9/11 attacks.
“He claims to work for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, DC, as an administrative officer,” the papers said.
The lack of cooperation denied the US vital information that might have alerted authorities to the attack in advance — and even enabled them to prevent the atrocity.
“When a high-level [redacted] officer was asked how the September 11 attacks might have been prevented, he cited greater Saudi cooperation, pointing to an example from the summer of 2001, when the US requested Saudi assistance, with no success,” the documents state.
The unnamed New York FBI agent said the Saudis helped the United States only when it was in their own interest.
The report also charges that the Saudi government may have provided support to the 9/11 hijackers.
“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report said.
“There is information, primarily from FBI sources, that at least two of those individuals were alleged to be Saudi intelligence officers.”
Although the report calls the information “speculative,” the detailed accusations at times sound more definitive.
“FBI documents . . . indicate that several Saudi naval officers were in contact with the September 11 hijackers,” the report states.
Included in the findings are details of a 9/11 “dry run” in which suspects with terror connections took a cross-country America West flight in 1999.
On board, the suspects “asked the flight attendants a variety of suspicious questions . . . then attempted to enter the cockpit on two occasions.” Tickets for that flight are said to have been paid for by the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
The White House claimed the report cleared the Saudis because there was no conclusive evidence of their involvement in 9/11.