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Senate won't reveal secret details of 9/11 report

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal walks out of the West Wing of the White House after meeting with President Bush on July 29.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal walks out of the West Wing of the White House after meeting with President Bush on July 29.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The classified portions of a congressional investigative report on September 11, 2001, will stay classified, according to the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The report, released earlier this summer, includes a 28-page section dealing with alleged foreign support of the al Qaeda hijackers, who slammed four airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing more than 3,000 people.

Many lawmakers and others want the classified portion made public.

The Senate committee's chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and ranking Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, said releasing the secret section could affect ongoing counterterrorism investigations.

The Bush administration had opposed the release, which was requested by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, a 2004 presidential candidate who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee during part of the joint House-Senate 9/11 investigation.

"Sen. Graham is extremely disappointed that the intelligence committee has decided not to pursue declassification of this material," said his spokesman, Paul Anderson. "The American people have a right to a full investigation of who was behind the plot."

The portions of the report that were withheld detailed support the hijackers allegedly received from foreign sources. Lawmakers who have seen the full report have indicated that the deleted portions deal with the hijackers' alleged interactions with Saudi nationals.

Saudi officials have vehemently denied that the hijackers received Saudi assistance, and they had also asked that the redacted sections of the report be released so that they could refute the charges.

Although 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, Saudi officials point out that al Qaeda also opposes the Saudi monarchy, and they deny that the hijackers received official government help.

"These people are attacking us. They are killing us. It sounds morbid to say that we would protect those who would kill us," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in August.

In a letter to Graham rejecting his request, Roberts and Rockefeller said the committee "will continue to monitor the intelligence community's effort to uncover any foreign links to the September 11 hijackers and will work with the administration to make information available to the public as appropriate."

The senators told Graham that they made their decision based in part on a September 4 hearing with FBI Director Robert Mueller and CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin.

Ties to suspected Saudi agents alleged

Congressional officials highlight the case of Omar al-Bayoumi, an employee of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, as one example of possible Saudi help to the hijackers. Families representing victims of the attacks have questioned whether al-Bayoumi was working as a Saudi agent when he helped two of the hijackers.

Investigators believe al-Bayoumi helped two of the hijackers settle in San Diego, California, in January 2000 and provided them with financial assistance, though officials disagree on the extent of the aid.

Al-Faisal has told the White House that the FBI may question al-Bayoumi, a Saudi citizen, administration officials said.

According to U.S. officials, al-Bayoumi helped arrange the move of hijackers Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Almihdhar to an apartment in San Diego. At the time, al-Bayoumi was active in San Diego's Muslim community, but he has since returned to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Faisal said al-Bayoumi has been questioned by U.S., British and Saudi officials and has not been charged with a crime.

A U.S. government source who has read the report and is familiar with the investigation said al-Bayoumi is probably an unofficial Saudi intelligence agent.

The man identified another of the men described in the report as Osama Bassnan, and identified him as another probable unofficial Saudi intelligence agent.

A complicated and not clearly understood financial relationship exists between the men and the Saudi government, the source said the report concluded.


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