A recent court filing revealed the CIA’s worst debacle in decades: Two 9/11 hijackers joined a secret CIA-Saudi intelligence program. Two 9/11 hijackers were involved with Alec Station, a CIA unit supposedly formed to watch out for Osama bin Laden and his associates. The FBI suppressed information regarding the CIA’s involvement with the two terrorists.
The 21-page Affidavit of Don Canestraro, Chief Investigator for the Office of Military Commissions, which handled the 9/11 suspect investigation, was published by SpyTalk, which operates a podcast and substack. It summarizes private conversations and sensitive government material from anonymous top CIA and FBI personnel. Canestraro interviewed several agents who worked on Operation Encore; the Bureau’s failed 9/11 inquiry into Saudi government ties.
Although hundreds of pages of evidence were collected from interviewing witnesses, questioning Saudi officials, and launching a grand jury investigation into a US-based hijacker support network run by Riyadh, Operation Encore was abruptly discontinued in 2016. The cause was “a byzantine intra-FBI bust-up over investigative methods.”
The Office’s public court docket released the document in 2021, redacting everything saves an “unclassified” label. Given Canestraro’s bombshell discovery that at least two 9/11 hijackers were involved in a CIA-Saudi intelligence operation, it’s easy to see why.
The Alec Station, a stand-alone unit of the CIA(also known as the Biden Laden Issue Station), warned agents to withhold information. CIA-supervised Alec Station was founded in 1996.
The FBI planned to conduct a joint investigation. The FBI agents assigned to the team quickly realized that they couldn’t provide any material to the Bureau’s headquarters without CIA approval and faced serious consequences for doing so. The New York-based I-49 unit was often denied intelligence.
“The system blinking red” about a large-scale Al-Qaeda terrorist strike in the US led the CIA and NSA to closely monitor an “operational cadre” that included Saudi nationals Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar formed an Al-Qaeda cell in late 1999.
The two Saudi nationals hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 on September 11, 2001, causing it to crash into the Pentagon.
Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar attended an Al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from January 5–8, 2000. Unit Alec Station asked that the meeting be secretly photographed and videotaped, but no audio was captured. CIA agents broke into Al-Mihdhar’s Dubai hotel room and photocopied his passport. He possessed a US multiple-entry visa.
An internal CIA communication claimed that the FBI was immediately notified “for further investigation.”Unit Alec Station expressly prohibited two FBI agents from telling the Bureau about Al-Mihdhar’s US visa. According to Mark Rossini, an FBI Agent, the CIA advised him not to tell about the two Saudis, which was not the FBI’s case; therefore, the FBI had no jurisdiction. Rossini said informing the Bureau meant breaking the law and losing his clearance and job. He said that he would have been gone that day.
On January 15, Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar landed in the US via Los Angeles International Airport, weeks after the operation was foiled. At the airport restaurant, Saudi “ghost employee” Omar Al-Bayoumi greeted them. After a brief talk, Al-Bayoumi helped them select an apartment in San Diego near his house, co-signed their lease, opened up bank accounts, and paid them $1,500 for rent. The three would continue to interact.
Al-Bayoumi told Operation Encore investigators that he met the two would-be hijackers by chance years later. He said his unique assistance was out of generosity and empathy for the two men unfamiliar with Western society, who hardly spoke English.
The Bureau believed Al-Bayoumi was a Saudi agent who collaborated with US Al-Qaeda members. They also concluded there was a “50/50 chance” he and Riyadh had considerable prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
Following an executive order from US President Joe Biden, the FBI published its first 9/11 investigative paper 20 years later. Alec station repeatedly broke CIA rules.
Al-Bayoumi’s contact with the hijackers and support afterward were coordinated with the CIA through the Saudi intelligence service, according to Bureau special agent “CS-3.” ” Riyadh’s General Intelligence Directorate helped Unit Alec Station recruit Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar via a liaison connection.
A CIA case officer at Alec Station designated “CS-10” concurred that Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar had communicated with the agency through Al-Bayoumi and was surprised that the unit had been assigned to infiltrate Al-Qaeda.
Langley’s “virtual” station was thousands of miles from countries where Al-Qaeda was suspected of operating, making it almost impossible to develop informants inside the group.
“CS-10” said they observed other “unusual activities” at Alec Station. The analysts would send cables instructing the field officers to perform specific tasks, violating CIA protocols. Analysts usually had no authority to direct a case officer.
Agents observed activity that appeared to be outside normal CIA procedures before 9/11. The unit’s analysts “mostly stuck to themselves” and seldom interacted. This period saw the most suspicious operations. In early 1998, bin Laden personally invited FBI-CIA informant Aukai Collins to Afghanistan to meet.
Given that Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar looked to work for Alec Station, the June 2001 meeting with high Bureau officials, including Al-Qaeda unit leaders, may have been a tease.
Former FBI agent “CS-23” testified in court that after 9/11, FBI headquarters and San Diego’s field office quickly discovered Bayoumi’s ties to Saudi intelligence, which led to the discovery of Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar’s recruitment by the CIA.
Investigations were suppressed by senior FBI officials. According to CS-23, Bureau agents were told not to reveal the extent of Saudi involvement in Al-Qaeda in the 9/11 Joint Inquiry.
The 9/11 “intelligence failures” at Alec Station have gone unpunished. They got paid when the unit’s leader, Richard Blee, and his replacement, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, joined the CIA’s operations section and became prominent in the “war on terror.”
The public understands the 9/11 attacks through the CIA’s harshest rendition and torture program’s victims’ testimonies. Former Alec Station employee Bikowsky questioned the alleged hijackers.
Aukai Collins, an FBI deep secret agent, finished his biography with a scary revelation, which Don Canestraro’s surprising admission only confirmed: According to Collins, he was very mistrustful about the fact that bin Laden’s name was mentioned hours after the attack. Collins stated that he doubted everything anyone claimed about what occurred or who did it. He remembered entering Bin Laden’s camp while working for them, and something smelled wrong. Collins said he did not know who was responsible for 9/11. Collins added that many people would be disappointed when the truth came out.
Is it true? Did US intelligence and media minimize it?
In light of the file that proved the CIA recruited the hijackers, intimidated their agents, and sought to cover up their scandals, both the CIA and the FBI all the motives to cover up Saudi Arabia’s participation in 9/11.
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