Who is Bayoumi?
Much has been reported about Omar al-Bayoumi and his alleged relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia. In his recent book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, New York Times reporter Phillip Shenon discusses at length the questions surrounding Bayoumi and his ties to the Saudi government.
“Bayoumi seemed clearly to be working for some part of the Saudi government,” Shenon wrote on page 52. “He entered the United States as a business student and had lived San Diego since 1996. He was on the payroll of an aviation contractor to the Saudi government, paid about $2,800 a month, but apparently did no work for the company.”
In fact, Bayoumi was an employee of the Saudi defense contractor Dallah Avco. According to a 2002 Newsweek article about Bayoumi, Dallah Avco is “an aviation-services company with extensive contracts with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan, the father of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar.”
Newsweek points to another connection between Bayoumi and Bandar: “About two months after al-Bayoumi began aiding Alhazmi and Almihdhar, NEWSWEEK has learned, al-Bayoumi’s wife began receiving regular stipends, often monthly and usually around $2,000, totaling tens of thousands of dollars. The money came in the form of cashier’s checks, purchased from Washington’s Riggs Bank by Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi envoy who is a prominent Washington figure and personal friend of the Bush family. The checks were sent to a woman named Majeda Ibrahin Dweikat, who in turn signed over many of them to al-Bayoumi’s wife (and her friend), Manal Ahmed Bagader. The Feds want to know: Was this well-meaning charity gone awry? Or some elaborate money-laundering scheme? A scam? Or just a coincidence?”
According to then-Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who served as a co-chair of the 9/11 Congressional inquiry that preceded the 9/11 Commission, during the period of Alhazmi and Almihdhar’s arrival in the US, Bayoumi had an “unusually large number of telephone calls with Saudi government officials in both Los Angeles and Washington.” (Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 168-169)
Bayoumi moved to London in 2001 and lived there until his arrest immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Following his release, Bayoumi returned to Saudi Arabia, where he was interviewed in October 2003 by the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, and Senior Counsel Dieter Snell.
Snell did not respond to requests for comment; Zeilkow could not be reached.
According to Shenon, several staff members working under Snell, “felt strongly that they had demonstrated a close Saudi government connection,” based on “explosive material” on al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy, a “shadowy Saudi diplomat in Los Angeles.”
Shenon recounts how Snell, in preparing his team’s account of the plot, purged almost all of the most serious allegations against the Saudi government and moved the “explosive” supporting evidence to the small print of the report’s footnotes. (The Commission, pp. 398-399)
Two commission investigators who were working on documenting the 9/11 plot, Michael Jacobsen and Raj De, argued that it was “crazy” to insist on 100 percent proof when it came to al-Qaeda or the Saudi regime. In the end, however, and with a publishing deadline looming, Snell’s caution and Zelikow’s direction buried apparently promising leads.
In similar fashion, 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry Report produced by Congress — an entire chapter outlining evidence of Saudi and other state sponsorship — were redacted.
Baer has additional questions.
“Considering that the main body of evidence came from tortured confessions, it’s still not entirely clear to me what happened on 9/11,” Baer said. “Among other questions [I have]: Why did [Prince] Bandar’s wife sent money to Bayoumi? What are Bayoumi’s links to the Sultan? How were the 15 Saudis [among the 19 hijackers] selected to carry out the attack? Who fed the credit card used by Abu Zubayda? What happened to Abu Zubayda’s telephone bills? Who was he calling in the U.S? None of these questions are unreasonable nor would answering them violate intelligence sources and methods.”
In a recent review of Shenon’s book, former Democratic senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey called on Congress to investigate alleged Saudi ties.
“Congress should demand direct access to those who organized the attacks; our indirect interviews were at best inadequate,” Kerrey wrote. “And Congress should pursue [the] question of whether the Saudi government aided the conspiracy.”
Kerrey declined to comment for this article. Other Commission members did not respond to requests for comment.