August 1994, an inconspicuous Saudi lands at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Omar al-Bayoumi was highly regarded as an upstart, a gregarious individual who can make friends rather quickly. He situates himself in San Diego, California where a large Arab community exists, due to the climate and consistent temps in the low 80’s year round. al-Bayoumi was a father of 4 children, who was constantly a presence at San Diego State, looking after young Saudi students. Sometimes often telling them he was also a student trying to receive a doctorate in engineering although the university had no record of him ever attending. The mysterious Saudi began making the rounds, according to an article in Newsweek, penned in 2002, he wasn’t just some Arab with a penchant for bragging either, he was a well connected businessman who had close contacts with certain members of the Saudi Ministry:
“He apparently did work for Dallah Avco, an aviation-services company with extensive contracts with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan, the father of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar.”
al-Bayoumi’s position and salary at Dallah Avco was approved by Hamid al-Rashid a prominent Saudi who has a son, Saud al-Rashid was a member of Al Qaeda, a known global terrorist organization. It was a “no-show” position, al-Bayoumi was getting paid for not even legitimately working for the company at all. The San Diego FBI field office presumed, along with the Arab community, that Omar al-Bayoumi was a Saudi Government Intelligence Officer. His activities around the Arab neighborhood and at San Diego State were obvious, as often times al-Bayoumi would often use his camcorder taping the community and landscape. When he wasn’t acting in a rather suspicious manner al-Bayoumi would offer his services and study at an Islamic Mosque located in El Cajon, about 15 miles from San Diego. At around this time unknown Saudi benefactors in Riyadh paid a Saudi living in San Diego, named Saad Al-Habeeb, to start building for a new Kurdish community mosque, the Kurdish Community Islamic Center. However, the approximately $500,000 will only be given on the condition that Omar al-Bayoumi be installed as the building’s maintenance manager with a private office at the mosque. This would also be another “no-show” job for al-Bayoumi.
The suspicions began to increase regarding al-Bayoumi, being paid thousands to live amongst the tight knit communities in El Cajon. However according to Federal Prosecutors in 2002, these jobs and mosques provided by the Saudi Government were actually fronts for money laundering, to terrorist cells located not just abroad, but inside the United States as well. From a now deleted San Diego Tribune story, “Couple Plead Guilty: To Be Deported To Saudi Arabia (10–22–2002)
“An anonymous federal investigator states, “Al-Bayoumi came here, set everything up financially, set up the San Diego al-Qaeda cell and set up the mosque.” An international tax attorney notes that anyone handling business for a mosque or a church could set it up as a tax-exempt charitable organization “and it can easily be used for money laundering.”
In September 1998, the FBI San Diego office begin opening an investigation into Omar al-Bayoumi. The FBI discovers he has been in contact with several people also under investigation. However the investigation is suddenly closed, and the reasons remain “unclear” as to whom ordered it from above and the reasons why. Accountants from Dallah Avco, find out about al-Bayoumi’s record and tries to have him removed from his position within the company. This would also end abruptly in defeat, as Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi, the Director General of Civil Aviation, would plead with board members of the company that al-Bayoumi’s expertise is too invaluable to be discontinued. The case would close, al-Bayoumi would remain within the companies record. At around December, the 9/11 Commission , would remark that Omar al-Bayoumim would make numerous calls to another prominent Saudi, Fahad al-Thumairy. At the time, al-Thumairy is working at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, and is a well-known Islamic radical, while al-Bayoumi had moved to the Parkwood Apartments in Mount Ada Rd, San Diego.
It would late become revealed in a 9/11 Commission staff interview with al-Bayoumi, that al-Thumairy would deny knowing al-Bayoumi, even thou he knew al-Thumairy well. The FBI investigation into al-Bayoumi had abruptly closed under mysterious circumstances, and another investigation opened…this time into a well known Muslim cleric who had contacts not just in California, but also in Detroit and Oklahoma. Anwar al-Awlaki was a Yemeni who served as vice president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW). According to a Washington Post article, the FBI began investigating CSSW in 1999 after a Yemeni politician visits the U,S to solicit donations for the charity, and then visits Mahmoud Es Sayed, a known al-Qaeda figure at the Islamic Cultural Institute.
“Federal prosecutors in New York alleged in a 2004 terrorism-related trial that a U.S. branch of a Yemeni charity for which Aulaqi served as vice president was a front that sent money to al-Qaeda. Documents filed around the same time in federal court in Alexandria assert that a year after 9/11, Aulaqi returned briefly to Northern Virginia, where he visited a radical Islamic cleric and asked him about recruiting young Muslims for “violent jihad.” That cleric, Ali al-Timimi, is now serving a life sentence for inciting followers to fight with the Taliban against Americans.”
The FBI would learn in their investigation into al-Awlaki that he also has contact with members of the Holy Land Foundation, a company which is known to fund Hamas, a Palestinian militant group. By 2000, much like the case with al-Bayoumi, the investigation into al-Awlaki was closed, but not without it’s reasons. Nothing al-Awlaki did was considered warranting a federal probe. Omar al-Bayoumi began commiserating with another prominent Saudi, Osama Basnan. Basnan was more “militant” than al-Bayoumi in his theology, and it showed. He once entertained a house party, in the year 1993, to another more prominent Islamic radical, Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian blind cleric nicknamed the “blind sheikh”. The party itself was under close watch by the FBI. According to the 9/11 Commission, Basnan writes letters to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife, Princess Haifa bint Faisal, asking for financial help because his wife,Majeda Dweikat, needs immediate thyroid surgery.
The Commission later finds out that Dweikat wouldn’t have the surgery until April of 2000. The payments began being deposited in December 1999. Princess Haifa bint Faisal, began sending monthly cashier’s checks roughly between $2,000 and $3,500 (accounts differ) to Majeda Dweikat, the Jordanian wife of Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in San Diego. Payments would go directly into the bank accounts of Majeda Dweikat at Riggs Bank. Basnan’s wife signs many of the checks over to her friend Manal Bajadr, the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi. It is later reported that the bank would also have ties with the CIA going as far back as 20 years.
The Saudi connection to the September 11th 2001 attacks would come into clear view by January 15th 2000 however. According to the 9/11 Commission, two Saudi’s Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, would land at LAX airport. According to 9/11 Commission staffer, Dieter Snell, it is not known where al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi lived in the two weeks prior to meeting with the Saudi contact Omar al-Bayoumi.
“Nawaf Al Hazmi and Khalid Al Mihdhar were already living in the United States, having arrived in Los Angeles on January 15th, 2000. It has not been established where they stayed in the first two weeks after their arrival.”
But according to FBI interviews with Qualid Benomrane, a Tunisian taxi driver in Los Angeles, he was tasked by Fahad al-Thumairy to pick up two Saudi’s who just arrived in town. He was not told the men’s name. The investigation into Benomrane began in the days after the attacks of September 11th 2001. LAPD anti-terrorism division received an anonymous call regarding a group of “middle eastern men in Hollywood, California acting suspicious”. The LAPD unit surveils the group which was located nearby the King Fahad mosque in Culver City. They in turn informed the FBI about the investigation. The FBI’s own investigation led them to Qualid Benomrane. Since Benomrane visa had expired, they had located him and picked him up to speak with him about what was going on. Benomrane told the FBI investigators about al-Thumairy’s request regarding the two unnamed Saudi’s. According to Benomrane, al-Thumairy said the two Saudi’s were visiting a sick father, and that he was to tell no one about their presence.
During the course of the interview, Benomrane was presented 20–30 photos of Muslim men, with the 19 9/11 hijackers mixed in. Benomrane immediately picked out two photographs of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi and set them aside. After he was done looking at all the photos, Benomrane shuffled the two photos back into the collection pile and claimed he couldn’t recognize anyone.
Benomrane also told investigators that the Saudi Consulate arraigned to have an apartment ready for the two Saudi’s. The apartment Benomrane showed investigators was located at 3636 South Sepulveda Boulevard. The King Fahad Mosque as found to have been renting rooms at the complex where Fahad al-Thumairy had some rooms rented in his name. From Benomrane’s information, the FBI then started to open an investigation into Fahad al-Thumairy.
Benomrane however told something else to FBI investigators which began a puzzling configuration, ignored by the 9/11 Commission altogether. As Benomrane drove al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi from the LAX Airport, he dropped them off at the LAX Hilton when they first arrived in the U.S on January 15th 2000. They were met at the airport by an official from the Saudi Consulate, Benomrane said. The official did not go to the hotel with them however. LAPD detective, Vicki Gizzi ran leads at the LAX Hilton and found that the room both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi stayed at, had previously been rented days ahead. Thru 9/11 Commission staffer Raj De, he subpoenaed the records of that room both men stayed in. However the names rented on January 15th 2000 and the names used as the checkouts were Said Abdullah and Said Abdallah. The room was held for these two men starting January 13th 2000 by a name which remains still classified. The room was paid for from January 13–16th. It is noted in the 9/11 Commission report that both al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi then stayed at the apartments located at 3636 South Sepulveda Boulevard for two weeks. However the 9/11 Commission Report still remains mum on the Hilton LAX connection. FBI Director Robert Mueller then suspends the investigation into Benomrane and he is deported back to Tunisia.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Omar al-Bayoumi meets unexpectedly Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi at a restaurant located at 10863 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles. The meeting according to al-Bayoumi is a “chance meet” as he overhears both men speaking in Arabic. He introduced himself and offered to help the two newcomers get settled and adjust to life in southern California. al-Bayoumi then sets both men up with an apartment complex that he also resides in, the Parkwood Apartments. al-Bayoumi pays the first months rent and also helps them set up with their Drivers License ID cards. The apartment they live in is apartment #150. al-Bayoumi is the co-signer and guarantor for their rental application, because they do not have established credit. He pays $1,500 cash for their first month’s rent and security deposit. The apartment manager will later claim al-Bayoumi occasionally paid rent for al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar on other occasions. al-Bayoumi then sets up a welcoming party with local Muslim attendees. To further assist them, al-Bayoumi loans the two men his cell phone until they can get phone service in their own apartment, as he then tasks an acquaintance from the Culver City mosque, Mohdar Abdullah, to serve as their translator and help them get driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, information on flight schools.
The transition regarding both Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi were seemingly uninterrupted from the FBI as well as known Saudi intelligence officers who later departed back to Saudi Arabia and interviewed by the9/11 Commission. All men who would have involvement with Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, whom both were suspected hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, denied ever having anything to do with the pair’s terrorist plans and even denied knowing them altogether.
However the evidence which would later come out from FOIA requests, the 9/11 Commission report as well as the partly redacted “28 pages” from the Joint House Inquiry report told a far different story. According to a highly classified 2012 FBI report, three suspects were found to have provided financial assistance to both Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, the report was shown to Florida Bulldog, a non profit news publication online. According to Senator Bob Graham, co-chair of the Joint House Inquiry into the September 11th attacks:
“This has never been disclosed before and it’s to the contrary of everything the FBI has produced so far that has indicated that 9/11 is history, It’s interesting that it took them 11 years to get there, and a FOIA to get this information to the public.”
Another line of questioning regarding the FBI’s total insistence of ignoring the Saudi connection came from Sean Carter, Philadelphia attorney for 9/11 families:
“Sean Carter, a Philadelphia attorney who represents numerous victims of 9/11 in a massive lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, called the release of the 2012 FBI report “a powerful and important disclosure.”
“We’ve been repeatedly told by U.S. officials that all questions of Saudi involvement were resolved by the 9/11 Commission and now you have confirmation that there was an active investigation happening years after the 9/11 Commission shut its doors” in August 2004.
Even retired FBI agent, Stephen K. Moore, who led the Sept. 11 probe in Los Angeles admitted he faced complete stonewalling from his superiors high up when he investigated Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi’s connections to Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. Moore wrote in his affidavit:
“Upon their arrival in southern California, Hazmi and Mihdhar were promptly cocooned by a highly matrixed network of aiders and facilitators who cleared a path to their success — supplying every physical and spiritual need to advance their mission.”
FBI counter-terrorism agent, David Mitchell also stated he faced obstacles regarding the Saudi-Los Angeles connection to the two Saudi hijackers:
“I concluded that diplomatic and intelligence personnel of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia knowingly provided material support to the two 9/11 hijackers and facilitated the 9/11 plot.”
Former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, currently still denies ever having interfered with any investigation into the Saudi Kingdom and the September 11th 2001 attacks. Yet much like everything else connecting to Los Angeles Saudi officials and al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, this statement from Mueller would become detached from the reality coming from some of his own investigators whom show that indeed was the case.