Saudi official tied to 9/11 attacks accidentally identified by the FBI

'Third man' named in document explaining why government can't reveal its secrets

Donald Trump tells 9/11 first responders: 'I was down there also'

The name of a Saudi official working in the US who may have helped direct the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been accidentally leaked by the FBI.

The man's name was revealed in a document filed by a senior FBI official in federal court in response to a lawsuit in which families of 9/11 victims accuse the Saudi government of complicity in the terror attacks.

The document was filed last month but was unsealed last week.

For the families behind the lawsuit, the revelation confirms that the FBI did believe there was a link between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC.

Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the families and whose father was killed in the attacks, told Yahoo News reporters who broke the story that the document proves the government has been attempting to obscure any potential Saudi involvement in 9/11.

"This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement. It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that's coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to the hijackers," Mr Eagleson said.

Mr Eagleson and his co-plaintiffs were already aware of the Saudi official, as lawyers from the US Justice Department had revealed the name to them in September. The families were under a protective order not to disclose the name or the information publicly.

The FBI agent who filed the document redacted every instance of the Saudi official's name in the paper with one exception, which was first spotted by reporters from Yahoo News. As a result, the families now appear to be free to speak about the official.

Since the mistake was brought to the Justice Department's attention, the FBI has withdrawn the declaration from the public docket, but has not offered further comment on the matter.

In an ironic twist, the documents in which the Saudi official's name appears were initially meant to support Attorney General William Barr and the acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell's efforts to block the public release of that official's name.

Mr Barr and Mr Grenell argued that the Saudi official's name was a "state secret" and that disclosure could cause "significant harm to national security."

The "national security" argument was furthered by the agent who filed the paperwork, Jill Sanborn. Ms Sanborn is the assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, and suggested that disclosing internal FBI files would reveal intelligence gathering methods and sources and would ultimately make foreign governments less likely to work with the FBI in the future.

False Hope

When the families first launched their lawsuit - only possible thanks to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passed by President Barack Obama in 2016 - they fought for the disclosure of records essential to their case against the Saudis.

On 11 September, 2019, the families met with President Donald Trump at the White House and asked the president if he could help them cut through the red tape that was slowing down their access to crucial documents.

"We told him, 'Please, Mr President, help us, please declassify the documents. Our government has been covering up the Saudi role,'" Mr Eagleson said.

The families said that when Mr Trump learned that former FBI directors Robert Mueller and James Comey were among the officials who were resisting their requests for documents, he became animated, calling the men "scum" and vowing to help the families.

"Hey Melania. Listen to these guys - the same scum that is fighting me is now fighting the 9/11 families," Mr Trump said, according to those at the meeting. "Don't worry, I'm going to help you guys."

Mr Eagleson said the families left the meeting feeling "elated" that they would finally get to see the documents they were searching for, but on the next day the families were given the man's identity and told them not to publicly disclose it, and Mr Barr said everything the families sought were "state secrets" and therefore unavailable to them.

"We felt we had been stabbed in the back," Mr Eagleson said.

The Third Man

The document refers to Mussaed Ahmed Al-Jarrah, a mid-level Saudi Foreign Ministry official who was working in the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC in 1999 and 2000. Former embassy officials said Mr Jarrah reported to the Saudi ambassador in the US and oversaw the activities of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs employees at Saudi-fundedmosques and and Islamic centers throughout the US.

Prior to the revelation, the families behind the lawsuit referred to Mr Jarrah as "the third man," a reference to his alleged connection to radical Saudi cleric Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi government agent who aided two of the 9/11 hijackers that took over the plane that flew into the Pentagon.

Catherine Hunt, a former FBI agent helping the families behind the lawsuit, said her investigation revealed that the FBI believed Mr Jarrah was "supporting" and "maintaining" Mr Thumiary during the 9/11 investigations.

Thus far, the FBI's suspicions of Mr Jarrah are just that - suspicions.

Agents were unable to prove that Mr Jarrah knew that Mr Thumiari and Mr Bayoumi were associated with al-Qaeda and that the men were plotting a terror attack, citing a "lack of evidence" to move the case forward.

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