By Bachir El Nakib (CAMS), Senior Consultant, Compliance Alert (LLC).

Publishing the long-awaited pages 13 years after they were first classified, the White House insisted they show no link between Saudi Arabia and the hijackers who carried out the terrorist attacks. The pages put into the public domain the remaining unseen section of the 2002 report, from the joint congressional inquiry into intelligence community activities before and after 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-Qaida,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “The number one takeaway from this should be that this administration is committed to transparency even when it comes to sensitive information related to national security.”

“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-Qaida,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “The number one takeaway from this should be that this administration is committed to transparency even when it comes to sensitive information related to national security.”

The publication, awaited for 13 years, will not necessarily end speculation around Saudi influence, however.

The 28 pages show that, according to FBI documents, several numbers found in the phone book of Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaida operative captured in Pakistan in March 2002 who is still being detained at Guantánamo Bay, could be linked, at least indirectly, to phone numbers in the US. Among them was a number “subscribed to” by a company in Aspen, Colorado, that managed the residence of the then Saudi ambassador, Bandar bin Sultan.

In addition, according to an FBI document, the phone number of a bodyguard at the Saudi embassy in Washington, “who some have alleged may be a” – several words have been redacted – “was also found in Abu Zubaida’s (sic) possession”.

Zubaydah became the test case for the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. Waterboarded more than 83 times in one month at a CIA black site in Thailand, Zubaydah was ultimately determined by CIA interrogators not to have yielded reliable intelligence from his abuse.

A recently declassified document from CIA medical personnel judged that he “probably reached the point of cooperation” before his torture, even though CIA interrogators, according to the Senate’s 2014 investigation, convinced themselves Zubaydah had actionable and specific intelligence on imminent al-Qaida plots.

Since 2006, Zubaydah has resided in a classified section of the Guantánamo Bay wartime prison complex. The US has never charged him with any offense; a 2009 justice department filing contesting his habeas corpus petition walked back the government’s frequent claim that Zubaydah was a senior member of al-Qaida, calling him merely an “affiliate”.

The newly declassified section of the congressional inquiry does not draw conclusions about Bandar, let alone accusations of complicity in 9/11, despite listing known or suspected associations to people once believed to have aided the terrorist attack. At several points its source material, largely derived from the FBI, states that it has closed inquiries or held them in “abeyance”, as with the Aspcol connection.

Yet some of the sections of the declassified pages remain withheld. One such section concerns a Saudi navy officer who in March 2000 was in telephonic contact with two of the hijackers. It is unclear if the FBI ultimately found anything relevant on the officer, but the FBI currently does not consider the Saudi Arabian government complicit in the attack.

Former president George W Bush had classified the chapter, part of a bigger 2002 congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks, to protect intelligence sources and methods and, many believe, to avoid offending Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich US ally.

Later investigations found no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials knowingly backed the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia. But politicians and relatives of victims pushed to get the pages published because of questions over whether Saudi nationals in contact with the hijackers after they arrived in the US knew what they were plotting. Barack Obama ordered a declassification review.

The House intelligence committee voted to reveal the pages but with certain redactions to protect sources. Devin Nunes, chairman of the committee, said: “I support the administration’s decision to declassify this section of the post-9/11 joint inquiry. Because the information can be released without jeopardising national security, the American people should be able to access it.

“However, it’s important to note that this section does not put forward vetted conclusions, but rather unverified leads that were later fully investigated by the intelligence community.”

Many of the intelligence community’s findings were included in the 9/11 commission report, he added, as well as in a newly declassified executive summary of a CIA-FBI joint assessment that will soon be released by the director of national intelligence.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the 28 pages reveal that Osama Basnan, whom the documents describe as a supporter of two of the 9/11 hijackers in California, received a cheque from Prince Bandar, the former Saudi ambassador to the US.

“On at least one occasion, Bassnan received a check directly from Prince Bandar’s account,” it says. “According to the FBI, on May 14, 1998, Bassnan cashed a check from Bandar in the amount of $15,000. Bassnan’s wife also received at least one check directly from Bandar.”

Basnan lived across the street from two of the hijackers – Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi – in San Diego and told an FBI asset that he had helped them, according to the document. Basnan was allegedly a supporter of al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and spoke of him “as if he were a god”.

Meanwhile Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, who were chairman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 commission, emphasised that the 28 pages had been written before they started their investigation. “The 9/11 Commission was created, in part, to finish the work the congressional panel had begun,” they said in a joint statement.

The 28 pages from 2002 were “based almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that had come to the FBI”, they added. “That material was then written up in FBI files as possible leads for further investigation. As of June 2003 none of these leads had been checked out. The documents are therefore comparable to preliminary law enforcement notes, which are generally covered by grand jury secrecy rules.”

Kean and Hamilton also noted that last year the 9/11 review commission reviewed the Saudi-related leads in the 28 pages and concluded that, despite the fact that two FBI teams continue to actively investigate the issue, “there was no new evidence against the Saudi government”.

Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said: “I hope that the release of these pages, with appropriate redactions necessary to protect our nation’s intelligence sources and methods, will diminish speculation that they contain proof of official Saudi government or senior Saudi official involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

“The intelligence community and the 9/11 commission, which followed the joint inquiry that produced these so-called 28 pages, investigated the questions they raised and was never able to find sufficient evidence to support them. I know that the release of these pages will not end debate over the issue, but it will quiet rumours over their contents – as is often the case, the reality is less damaging than the uncertainty.”

Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said he was pleased by the release. “The American public deserved to see the report’s declassified contents and now they can.”

Saudi Arabia also welcomed the decision, hoping it would draw a line under the matter. Its ambassador to the US, Abdullah al-Saud, said: “Since 2002, the 9/11 commission and several government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, have investigated the contents of the ‘28 pages’ and have confirmed that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided any support or encouragement for these attacks.

“We hope the release of these pages will clear up, once and for all, any lingering questions or suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s actions, intentions, or long-term friendship with the United States.”

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.

The Commission has released its final report, available below in PDF format. The report is also available in bookstores nationwide and from the Government Printing Office.

Frequently Asked Questions about the report are answered on this site.


9-11 Commission Report
Public Statement by the Chair and Vice Chair Regarding the Report PDF, 36 KB
Executive Summary PDF, 372 KB HTML, 64 KB
Complete 9/11 Commission Report
PDF, 7.4 MB
Report by Section
Contents, List of Illustrations and Tables, Members, and Staff PDF, 372 KB HTML, 64 KB
Preface PDF, 67 KB HTML, 14 KB
1. "We Have Some Planes"
  • 1.1 Inside the Four Flights
  • 1.2 Improvising a Homeland Defense
  • 1.3 National Crisis Management
PDF, 952 KB HTML, 133 KB
2. The Foundation of the New Terrorism
  • 2.1 A Declaration of War
  • 2.2 Bin Ladin's Appeal in the Islamic World
  • 2.3 The Rise of Bin Ladin and al Qaeda (1988-1992)
  • 2.4 Building an Organization, Declaring War on the United States (1992-1996)
  • 2.5 Al Qaeda's Renewal in Afghanistan (1996-1998)
PDF, 1.4 MB HTML, 72 KB
3. Counterterrorism Evolves
  • 3.1 From the Old Terrorism to the New: The First World Trade Center Bombing
  • 3.2 Adaptation--and Nonadaptation--in the Law Enforcement Community
  • 3.3 ... and in the Federal Aviation Administration
  • 3.4 ... and in the Intelligence Community
  • 3.5 ... and in the State Department and the Defense Department
  • 3.6 ... and in the White House
  • 3.7 ... and in the Congress
PDF, 188 KB HTML, 116 KB
4. Responses to Al Qaeda's Initial Assaults
  • 4.1 Before the Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania
  • 4.2 Crisis: August 1998
  • 4.3 Diplomacy
  • 4.4 Covert Action
  • 4.5 Searching for Fresh Options
PDF, 185 KB HTML, 113 KB
5. Al Qaeda Aims at the American Homeland
  • 5.1 Terrorist Entrepreneurs
  • 5.2 The "Planes Operation"
  • 5.3 The Hamburg Contingent
  • 5.4 A Money Trail?
PDF, 312 KB HTML, 89 KB
6. From Threat To Threat
  • 6.1 The Millennium Crisis
  • 6.2 Post-Crisis Reflection: Agenda for 2000
  • 6.3 The Attack on the USS Cole
  • 6.4 Change and Continuity
  • 6.5 The New Administration's Approach
PDF, 209 KB HTML, 129 KB
7. The Attack Looms
  • 7.1 First Arrivals in California
  • 7.2 The 9/11 Pilots in the United States
  • 7.3 Assembling the Teams
  • 7.4 Final Strategies and Tactics
PDF, 949 KB HTML, 119 KB
8. "The System Was Blinking Red"
  • 8.1 The Summer of Threat
  • 8.2 Late Leads--Mihdhar, Moussaoui, and KSM
PDF, 146 KB HTML, 76 KB
9. Heroism and Horror
  • 9.1 Preparedness as of September 11
  • 9.2 September 11, 2001
  • 9.3 Emergency Response at the Pentagon
  • 9.4 Analysis
PDF, 2.3 MB HTML, 130 KB
10. Wartime
  • 10.1 Immediate Responses at Home
  • 10.2 Planning for War
  • 10.3 "Phase Two" and the Question of Iraq
PDF, 109 KB HTML, 45 KB
11. Foresight--and Hindsight
  • 11.1 Imagination
  • 11.2 Policy
  • 11.3 Capabilities
  • 11.4 Management
PDF, 133 KB HTML, 67 KB
12. What To Do? A Global Strategy
  • 12.1 Reflecting on a Generational Challenge
  • 12.2 Attack Terrorists and Their Organizations
  • 12.3 Prevent the Continued Growth of Islamist Terrorism
  • 12.4 Protect against and Prepare for Terrorist Attacks
PDF, 184 KB HTML, 110 KB
13. How To Do It? A Different Way of Organizing the Government
  • 13.1 Unity of Effort across the Foreign-Domestic Divide
  • 13.2 Unity of Effort in the Intelligence Community
  • 13.3 Unity of Effort in Sharing Information
  • 13.4 Unity of Effort in the Congress
  • 13.5 Organizing America's Defenses in the United States
PDF, 158 KB HTML, 79 KB
Appendices PDF, 109 KB HTML, 49 KB
Notes PDF, 669 KB HTML, 681 KB


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