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Families Of 9/11 Victims Want Information About Saudi Involvement Unsealed Before 20th Anniversary

Flowers are placed at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York on Sept. 11, 2020, as the U.S. commemorates the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
Flowers are placed at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York on Sept. 11, 2020, as the U.S. commemorates the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

This September, Americans will mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Two decades later, thousands of family members of the victims are pressuring the courts to release information they say proves Saudi Arabia played a role in the attacks, a contention the country denies. The most damning information, the families say, is a series of recent video interviews with three Saudi men.

Attorney Jim Kreindler represents the nearly 10,000 family members who want Saudi Arabia to be held accountable for the 9/11 attacks. He says key documents that prove Saudi Arabian officials spent three years helping al-Qaida prepare for the 9/11 attacks are under a gag order that forbids the legal team from showing the information to the families.

The documents prove that Saudi officials found housing in California for the “two lead terrorists” involved in the attack and gave them money, Kreindler alleges.

The U.S. government is keeping these documents under wraps to hide intelligence and law enforcement failures, he says. The FBI knew about these “dangerous al-Qaida terrorists” living in the U.S. but kept them under surveillance instead of arresting them for a year and a half, Kreindler alleges.

“We believe that there are more specific misdeeds that some people in the [U.S.] government are tremendously embarrassed about,” he says. “But I can’t talk about those because of the gag order.”

The U.S. government says there’s a gag order on the information because of national security issues. Kreindler refutes this and says the order was imposed to protect the privacy of witnesses, which includes people who were complicit in the attacks.

For example, shortly after the Plaintiffs’ Committee filed the lawsuit, a Freedom of Information request was denied because the team would need to provide a statement from Osama bin Laden authorizing the release of the documents, Kreindler says.

“For our government to invoke the privacy interests of people who should be indicted for mass murder has absolutely nothing to do with national security,” he says, “and everything to do with covering up their own embarrassment and failures.”

The U.S. government has never said that there was proof to link Saudi Arabia to 9/11. But Kreindler says the depositions contain “the essential facts” that prove the Saudi government “deliberately helped” these terrorists.

‘Our Government Stopped And Failed Us’

When plaintiff Brett Eagleson was 15, his father died in the attacks

The 9/11 Commission Report found no senior-level Saudi officials were involved with the attacks, he says, but the commission ended in 2004. The FBI investigated other leads until its Operation Encore ended in 2016.

It’s important to Eagleson that the three senior officials who were recently interviewed — Fahad al-Thumairy, Omar al-Bayoumi and Musaed al-Jarrah — answer for their involvement in the attacks.

Eagleson says he feels the U.S. government betrayed the victims’ families by keeping this information a secret.

“We loved our country and we did everything our government ever asked of us to do. And here we are 20 years later,” he says. “Our government failed us 20 years ago and they’re continuing to fail us today by keeping this information from us.”

Attorney Kreindler says the government created a false narrative by releasing some select information, which makes this the “worst cover-up” in the nation’s history.

“People in our government are quite literally helping Saudi government officials get away with murder for 20 years,” Kreindler says.

As the 20th anniversary of the attacks approaches, Eagleson feels proud to honor his father and the 9/11 community through this lawsuit. And he’s thinking about how his brother went to Iraq twice to fight for the country his family loves.

“I think he would be really proud, but it also makes it really hard to realize what our government has done to us,” he says. “I’m a patriotic person. I love this country. But it’s a hard issue to come to terms with to know that your country doesn’t love you back.”

Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtAllison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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