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White House Declassifies FBI Report Detailing Saudi Nationals' Connections To 9/11

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Biden administration declassified an FBI report that links some of the 9/11 hijackers to Saudi nationals living in the U.S. Now, the Saudi government says it had nothing to do with the attacks, but families of the victims are finding new clues in that FBI report that they think provide evidence of a Saudi role. Here's NPR's Laura Sullivan.

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: The 16-page report comes from Operation Encore, an investigation into possible ties between the 9/11 attacks and Saudi Arabia. The report does not come to any conclusions about a Saudi government role, but it does shed new light on a question that has long troubled investigators - how the 19 mostly Saudi hijackers, many of whom couldn't speak English and had never set foot in the West, could pull off the attack without help.

Jim Kreindler's representing the families of victims suing Saudi Arabia.

JIM KREINDLER: It's becoming clearer and clearer, and what we know matches up with what the FBI knew.

SULLIVAN: The new FBI report diverges from a long-held belief that two main characters, who met some of the hijackers, stumbled onto them by chance. The official 9/11 Commission Report written in 2004 describes the men, one of whom was a Saudi diplomat, as unlikely terrorist supporters. This new report, however, describes both men as going to great lengths to orchestrate help for at least two of the hijackers and having extremist ties.

The report also sheds some light on new people. Family members of the victims and their lawyer, Kreindler, say they were stunned to see another Saudi diplomat named for the first time linked to the hijackers.

KREINDLER: We didn't know that.

SULLIVAN: The report alleges that the diplomat, Mutaib al-Sudairy (ph), had a roommate for a time who was one of Osama bin Laden's top logistics and equipment procurers. And the FBI says there were phone calls between Sudairy and another man close to the hijackers at times when the hijackers got logistical support.

KREINDLER: It's a breakthrough. I mean, we're finally getting help from the administration, validating what we've been saying. These important truths are finally beginning to emerge.

SULLIVAN: Saudi officials say all these links add up to nothing but coincidences, and none of them point to Saudi government complicity. They say they have fought al-Qaida terrorists as partners alongside the U.S. for years. But as more documents are released in the next six months, families hope they will at least get to piece together a fuller picture of what happened.

Laura Sullivan, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.