Notorious for failing in its duty to thwart terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is under fire again, this time from a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who want the beleaguered law enforcement agency investigated for “major abnormalities” involving evidence in a terrorism case. Known for its corrupt method of operating, the FBI appears to be hiding evidence critical to a pending Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims. Two years ago, the FBI received a civil subpoena in the case and the lawmakers believe the agency has committed numerous violations and may be trying to conceal that its “investigative files are in a state of disorder.”
In a letter to the FBI watchdog, the Department of Justice Inspector General (DOJ IG), the senators write about “troubling reports concerning the FBI’s irregular treatment of a civil subpoena issued by the September 11 families.” The lawmakers, New York Democrat Charles Schumer, Iowa Republican Charles Grassley and Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal mention half a dozen concerns that merit a probe by the IG, including the FBI’s refusal to conduct methodological searches of its electronic databases, “instead empowering FBI officials with inherent conflicts of interest to hand-select the materials to be considered for possible production, and to control the information that is produced.” Judicial Watch has regularly encountered similar obstacles over the years in efforts to obtain public records from the FBI, most recently involving the shady anti-Trump “dossier” masterminded by corrupt FBI officials plotting against the president. Last month the FBI used coronavirus as an excuse to shut down its electronic public records operations.
In the 9/11 lawsuit families are seeking information about the FBI’s investigation of two Saudi Arabian government employees—Omar al Bayoumi and Fahad al Thumairy—who provided 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmiand and Khalid al Mihdhar and their accomplices “substantial assistance.” Thumairy was a Saudi consular official in Los Angeles and his ties to the hijackers are detailed in a once-classified portion of the 9/11 Commission Report that was declassified in 2016. In the spring of 2018 attorneys representing the 9/11 families served a civil subpoena on the FBI for the information critical to their case, but there may have been major abnormalities in the FBI’s handling of that subpoena that deserve the inspector general’s attention, the lawmakers write.
Here is what the veteran legislators allege that merits a probe; departures from established processes for responding to civil discovery demands, which would violate the FBI’s legal obligation and are designed to guard against conflicts of interest within the agency; misstatements to the federal court presiding over the litigation about the actual status of investigations; misstatements to the federal court regarding the sensitivity of the evidence being sought, including efforts to conceal original classification designations; efforts to conceal that the FBI’s investigative files are in a state of disorder; efforts to conceal the fact that key investigative materials collected after the attacks were never properly analyzed; refusal to conduct methodological searches of FBI’s electronic databases, instead empowering FBI officials with inherent conflicts of interest to hand-select the materials to be considered for possible production and to control the information that is produced.
“These allegations by the families raise questions as to whether FBI personnel may be acting in improper ways to withhold evidence the 9/11 families are entitled to receive, and that this obstruction may be driven by an effort to shield the Bureau and individual FBI officials from embarrassment,” the senators write. “Obviously, any irregularities, abuse, fraud, or improprieties in the handling of the 9/11 families’ subpoena for evidence are entirely unacceptable.” The lashing continues: “The September 11 attacks represent a singular and defining tragedy in the history of our Nation. Nearly twenty years later, the 9/11 families and American public still have not received the full and transparent accounting of the potential sources of support for those attacks to which they are entitled. Circumstances that leave the impression that our government is hiding facts about 9/11 from the families and public tear at the very fabric of our democracy and erode trust in our government.”