By Larry Neumeister
NEW YORK — Lawyers for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks say they have new evidence that agents of Saudi Arabia “directly and knowingly” helped the hijackers, including sworn testimony from the so-called 20th hijacker and from three principals of the U.S. government’s two primary probes of the attacks.
The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington said in a statement Wednesday that Zacarias Moussaoui’s claims come from a “deranged criminal” and that there is no evidence to support them. It said Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with the deadly 2001 attacks.
The lawyers filed documents in Manhattan federal court to buttress claims Saudi Arabia supported al-Qaida and its leader at the time, Osama bin Laden, prior to the attacks. They have always said “the Saudi government directly and knowingly assisted the 9/11 hijackers,” but now say facts and evidence supporting the assertion “are compelling.”
They said an “expansive volume” of new evidence — including U.S. and foreign intelligence reports, government reports and testimony from al-Qaida members — support lawsuits seeking billions of dollars from countries, companies and organizations that aided al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
They said evidence likely to be released soon includes a congressional report detailing evidence of Saudi 9/11 involvement and nearly 80,000 pages of material relating to an FBI probe of Saudis who supported 9/11 hijackers in Florida.
They also cited their own research, including last year’s Moussaoui interview at the maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado.
Moussaoui repeated some assertions made previously, including that a 1990s plot by al-Qaida to shoot down Air Force One and assassinate President Bill Clinton was assisted by a top Saudi Embassy employee, along with claims there were direct dealings between senior Saudi officials and bin Laden.
The lawyers also said their case is boosted by sworn statements by 9/11 Commissioners John Lehman and Bob Kerrey, as well as Bob Graham, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11. Graham says he believes “there was a direct line” between some Sept. 11 terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia while Lehman, a former Navy secretary, explained close historical ties between the kingdom’s government clerics and al-Qaida, the lawyers noted.
The court filing, coming less than two weeks after the death of Saudi King Abdullah, was made to meet a deadline set by Judge George B. Daniels.
In a website statement, the Saudi embassy noted the Sept. 11 attack had been the “most intensely investigated crime in history and the findings show no involvement by the Saudi government or Saudi officials.”
As for Moussaoui, the statement said: “His words have no credibility. His goal in making these statements only serves to get attention for himself and try to do what he could not do through acts of terrorism — to undermine Saudi-U.S. relations.”
Moussaoui was arrested on immigration charges in August 2001 after employees of a Minnesota flight school became alarmed he wanted to learn to fly a Boeing 747 with no pilot’s license. He was in custody on Sept. 11 and pleaded guilty in April 2005 to conspiring with the hijackers to kill Americans.
A psychologist testified for the defense at death penalty proceedings that he had paranoid schizophrenia. Jurors spared his life.