To recap published evidence on whether money from Saudi officials was given to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, the 9/11 Commission reported that Omar al-Bayoumi (a Saudi intelligence agent) helped al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar get established upon their arrival in San Diego, to include a one-time transfer of $9,900 that was reportedly refunded immediately. However, Congress’s joint inquiry into 9/11 found that an alternate assessment of bank records by the FBI found no evidence of a refund to al-Bayoumi. Some FBI agents believed that al-Bayoumi continued paying al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s rent, but the 9/11 Commission contradicts them. In either case, former U.S. Senator Bob Graham has indicated that al-Bayoumi played a broader role in the facilitation of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s activities in San Diego than official published reports revealed.
Quotations from each source follow:
We thus do not know when or how Hazmi and Mihdhar first came to San Diego. We do know that on February 4 , they went to the Islamic Center of San Diego to find Omar al Bayoumi and take him up on his offer of help. Bayoumi obliged by not only locating an apartment but also helping them fill out the lease application, co-signing the lease and, when the real estate agent refused to take cash for a deposit, helping them open a bank account (which they did with a $9,900 deposit); he then provided a certified check from his own account for which the al Qaeda operatives reimbursed him on the spot for the deposit.
However, another FBI document appears to reach a different conclusion: ‘a review of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi’s bank records indicate [sic] there is no bank documentation that supports the reimbursement of [the rent money], or any monies to Omar al-Bayoumi from al-Hazmi or al-Midhar.’
A number of internal FBI documents state without reservation that Bayoumi paid rent on behalf of Mihdhar and Hazmi, a claim reflecting the initial view of some FBI agents. More thorough investigation, however, has determined that Bayoumi did not pay rent or provide any funding to the hijackers.
In San Diego, there was a man [Omar al-Bayoumi] and a circle of his friends. The man was described by the FBI as being a Saudi agent. His purpose in San Diego was to monitor Saudi students to assure that they weren’t plotting to overthrow the monarchy. But in January of 2000 he got a second assignment which was to provide protection for two Saudis [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar] who had just entered the country. He was encouraged to invite them to come to San Diego—they did. He provided them money, a place to live, flight lessons, and an infrastructure of Muslims in San Diego to give them protection and anonymity. These two individuals were on the plane that flew into the Pentagon.
The official story is that al-Bayoumi could never be prosecuted for providing material support to terrorism since the evidence of giving money to the 9/11 hijackers is unclear, and he allegedly had no knowledge of what they would use the money for. However, the material support clause of 18 US Code § 2339 includes more types of support than just money, and paying somebody’s first month rent and security deposit, in a scenario where a landlord would otherwise not have offered a lease, could qualify as support, regardless of whether or not he was refunded. Whether al-Bayoumi knew what the San Diego-based hijackers were planning is a different question, but he was not thoroughly questioned by law enforcement.
As Money Jihad has noted, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar seemed to have received disproportionately less financial assistance from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and his financial intermediary Ali Abdul Aziz Ali than other 9/11 hijackers, even though they lived in the U.S. for a longer period of time and presumably had higher total living expenses. A full accounting of their potential alternate sources of income has never been made available.
In light of the somewhat conflicting accounts of the scope of al-Bayoumi’s interactions with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, it would be appropriate to declassify the 28-page section of Congress’s joint inquiry into 9/11 that dealt with this subject to clear the air.