WASHINGTON • The United States Congress has released a long-classified section of an official report on the 9/11 attacks, describing an array of potential links between some of the hijackers and officials in Saudi Arabia.
The document, 28 pages of a congressional inquiry into the Sept 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, is also an unflattering portrayal of the kingdom's efforts to thwart US attempts to combat terrorist network Al-Qaeda in the years before the attacks.
But it is a frustrating time capsule, completed in late 2002 and kept secret for nearly 14 years out of concern that it might fray diplomatic relations between the US and Saudi Arabia.
The classified pages were released on Friday by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee after years of wrangling between Congress and different administrations, Republicans and Democrats, and urging by families of those killed.
But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the pages "don't shed any new light or change any of the conclusions about responsibility for the 9/11 attacks". "This information does not change the assessment of the US government that there's no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi individuals funded Al-Qaeda," he said.
Addressing a press conference in Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the declassified document underlined that the Saudi government was not involved in the Sept 11 attacks. "The matter is now finished," he said.
But the release of the pages is unlikely to end the controversy around an important US partner in the Middle East. Fifteen of the 19 Sept 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. "According to various FBI documents and CIA memorandum, some of the Sept 11 hijackers, while in the US, apparently had contacts with individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government," the report said.
This included reported meetings between Saudis in California and money possibly sent from the Saudi royal family to the hijackers.
One section said Omar al-Bayoumi, said to be a Saudi intelligence officer, met two hijackers at a public place after they arrived in San Diego.
The pages also say a phone number found in a telephone book of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi-born Al-Qaeda operative captured in Pakistan, was for a Colorado corporation that managed the affairs of the residence of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador.
The document has been made public at a particularly troubled time in the US' decades-long relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The US Senate unanimously passed a Bill in May that would make it easier for families of Sept 11 victims to sue the Saudi government for any role in the attacks.
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES