Wednesday, December 8

The unanswered questions surrounding the 9/11 attacks


(CNN Español) — Two decades after the terrorist attacks of al Qaeda against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in the United States, which left almost 3,000 dead, do we know everything there is to know about these episodes?

The answer is no for more than 1,600 people, among relatives of the victims and injured by the attacks, who demand that the US Department of Justice declassify all documents and information on September 11, 2001.

At the beginning of August the group sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him not to participate in the events commemorating the 20 years of the attacks, which will take place this September 11, unless he approves the release of this information.

During the 2020 campaign, Biden had promised in a paper to the victims’ families that he would work to get the Justice Department to release those documents.

The remains of the World Trade Cente after the attacks of September 11, 2011.

The Justice Department ad on August 12, a week after the letter from relatives, which will review the classified information in order to determine what part of it can be released. Except for a score of pages, the secret still surrounds what the US government has found about the participation -or not- of other countries in the events.

Then, in early September, Biden signed a decree ordering the Justice Department and other federal agencies to review the declassification of documents related to the FBI’s 9/11 investigation.

“The decree requires the Secretary of Justice to make the declassified documents public within the next six months,” Biden wrote in a statement regarding the signing of the decree.

Days later, on Wednesday 7, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington issued a statement welcoming the complete declassification of documents, and ratified that “no evidence has emerged that indicates that the Saudi government or its officials had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks or were involved in any way in their planning or execution ”.

The statement says that “as the administrations of the last four presidents have verified, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has unswervingly condemned and denounced the deplorable crimes that took place against the United States, its closest ally and partner.”

What, then, is it that we still don’t know about the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil?

The role of Saudi Arabia

Of the total 19 terrorists that participated in the hijacking of the four planes used for the terrorist attacks, 15 came from Saudi Arabia, and the rest from Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist group that carried out the attacks, was also a Saudi citizen and a member of an influential business family in the country.

These events led to questions from day one about the alleged role of members of the royal family or the government of Saudi Arabia in 9/11, and there is still no clear answer.

The Saudi Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda at the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The government of Saudi Arabia he has denied any involvement in the attacks, and considers this to be totally unfounded; at the moment there are no accusations or legal charges against any member of the government or the royal family.

In 2017, a group made up of relatives of 850 victims of 9/11 and 1,500 injured on that day demanded to Saudi Arabia before the US courts for allegedly providing material, practical and financial assistance to al Qaeda. That was the third lawsuit against the kingdom by relatives of the victims and injured.

According to the plaintiffs, this would have been carried out through different ministries, officials and charity networks linked to the Saudi government.

“9/11 could not have happened without Saudi Arabia’s support for al Qaeda,” Jim Kreindler, a lawyer and co-chair of the plaintiffs committee, told CNN.

The lawsuit is based on 28 pages of declassified documentsIt is partially in 2016 that they argue that some of the terrorists who participated in 9/11 may have had ties to the Saudi government.

The 9/11 attacks in numbers 2:41

“During their stay in the US, some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with people who could be related to the Saudi government and received their support or assistance,” the document says, later adding that the information was speculative. and that has not been verified.

According to information from FBI, two of these individuals would have been Saudi intelligence agents.

The ambassador of Saudi Arabia at the time, Abdullah Al-Saud, reacted to the publication of these documents, noting that several agencies of the United States government, including the CIA and the FBI, have investigated the content of those 28 pages and “have confirmed that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person who acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided no support or encouragement to these attacks. “

“We hope that the publication of these pages will clarify, once and for all, any lingering questions or suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s actions, intentions or long-term friendship with the United States,” said the then-Saudi ambassador.

The relatives’ lawsuit, like two previous cases, was dismissed by a federal judge who found that the Saudi kingdom had sovereign immunity in the case.

Those three rulings came before Congress finally passed the so-called Sponsors of Terrorism Justice Act (Jasta), which restricted sovereign immunity by excluding from that protection acts of international terrorism or harm caused to Americans by agents of foreign governments when they act in that capacity.

Congress, with bipartisan support in both houses, defeated the veto of then-President Barack Obama, who, like his Secretary of State, John Kerry, feared that the law would have potential consequences for the sovereign immunity of the United States in the Exterior.

As reported at that time CNN, Saudi diplomacy would have quietly warned that if the law were passed, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth funds would likely begin to dispose of their US assets, including a portfolio of Treasuries valued at US $ 750,000 million, with the consequences that this would entail for the financial markets. But this did not happen.

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in the United States expressed in a Press release published in 2017 regarding the 2016 declassification that “in an attempt to make sense of the tragedy, people often cling to implausible theories rather than accepting simple truths.”

“We understand that the involvement of Saudi citizens in the 9/11 attacks makes these conspiracy theories attractive to some. But it is important to also remember that Saudi Arabia has been the victim of dozens of terrorist attacks in the last 20 years. Al-Qaeda , in effect, declared war on the kingdom a long time ago, “the note reads.

Why were the warnings not acted upon?

Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, US intelligence agencies had repeatedly warned of a possible attack by al Qaeda, but the authorities did not act accordingly.

This is what the twin towers of the World Trade Center looked like on September 11, 2001, when two planes crashed into them in the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country’s history. (Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Al Qaeda had already attacked two U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, leaving 224 dead.

That same year, different intelligence agencies had warned in a report on Bin Laden’s plans to coordinate an attack on US soil.

In September 1999, a year before the attacks, a report on terrorism, he warned that al Qaeda “could crash a plane loaded with high explosives (C-4 and Semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA or the White House.”

In July 2001 the FBI alerted people from the Middle East possibly connected to al Qaeda who were receiving classes on how to fly a plane, and in August, less than a month before the attacks, the CIA sent an urgent communication to the FBI, the State Department and other agencies alerting about individuals connected to al Qaeda.

The terrorist Zia Samir Jarrah took flying lessons at the Venice Municipal Airport, Florida, and later participated in the hijacking of Flight 93. The FBI had alerted about these activities. (Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Untranslated messages

One day before the attacks, on September 10, US intelligence agencies they intercepted Messages in Arabic sent from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, where Bin Laden had taken refuge, speaking of an alleged attack. They were translated on September 12, the day after 9/11.

Sources told CNN at the time that the interceptions were of sufficient interest to be studied within 48 hours, regardless of the attacks.

Some US officials have argued that the messages in question lacked specific information to allow for action, and that intelligence agencies collect huge amounts of information on a daily basis and that it is impossible to translate and process it so quickly.

In 2015 the CIA declassified an internal report that highlights the “systematic problems” surrounding the handling of the information recorded by the agency during the period, although it reiterates that no employee violated the laws and that the errors in intelligence gathering were not the product of of malpractice.

How a blind man escaped the Twin Towers on 9/11 3:33

Where was Flight 93 headed?

On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists kidnapped four planes.

American Airlines flights 11 and United Airlines 175 intentionally crashed into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York, killing 2,753 people. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon building in Virginia, killing 184 people.

The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew. It is believed that the plane had another objective, but that the passengers on board tried to regain control and the terrorists decided to crash.

It is not yet entirely clear what happened aboard Flight 93 or what the terrorists’ objective was, although investigators They have said who were possibly looking to crash the plane into the Capitol, the building that houses the United States Congress, or the White House, among other emblematic sites in Washington.

The tribute to Flight 93 at the crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001. (Credit: ANGELA WEISS / AFP via Getty Images)

The plane on that flight, a Boeing 757, had taken off in Newark, New Jersey, and was heading to San Francisco, California, when the four al Qaeda hijackers took control and turned to head for Washington.

But the plane’s passengers received news of the attacks in New York and assaulted the hijackers. Two of them locked themselves in the cabin and tried to dissuade the passengers by shaking the plane.

When this did not work, and still far from Washington, the terrorist who was piloting lowered the nose of the 757 and made it fall in a field, shouting “Allah is the greatest!”, According to the plane black box recordings revealed by a Congressional investigation.


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