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Investigators for 9/11 families examine video taken by man with ties to Saudi intelligence referencing a "plan"

Video raises questions about Saudi 9/11 role
Video shows what a Saudi national filmed before the 9/11 terror attacks | 60 Minutes 04:33

For more than two decades, the U.S. position has been that al Qaeda acted alone on September 11th, but a newly public video has raised questions about whether the Saudi government provided crucial assistance to the hijackers during the 9/11 terror attacks.

Omar al-Bayoumi, whom the FBI says was an operative of the Saudi intelligence service with close ties to two of the 9/11 hijackers, can be heard on the video, which was unsealed in federal court this week and obtained by 60 Minutes. The 1999 video was taken within 90 days of the time when senior al Qaeda planners were deciding on 9/11 targets, Richard Lambert, a retired FBI agent who led the initial 9/11 investigation in San Diego, said.

"It is another very large brick in a massive wall of evidence that at this point indicates the Saudi government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks," Lambert said.

What the video shows

Bayoumi filmed the video over the course of several days. It shows entrances and exits of the U.S. Capitol along with security posts and a model of the building. At one point, he points out the Washington Monument and says he'll go there and "report to you in detail what is there." He also notes the airport is nearby.

Lambert, who's now a consultant on the case filed by the families of 9/11 victims to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in the Sept. 11 attacks, said knowledge of where the Washington Monument is in relation to other D.C. landmarks could help guide people toward intended targets.

Omar al-Bayoumi video unsealed in federal court | 60 Minutes 00:59

Federal investigators believe the hijackers on Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, had the U.S. Capitol as their likely target. Lawyers for the 9/11 families and former intelligence analysts who spoke with 60 Minutes believe portions of the video show Bayoumi surveilling the Capitol as part of that plan. In the video, Bayoumi is heard referencing a "plan."

"I think he's talking to the al Qaeda planners who tasked him to take the pre-operational surveillance video of the intended target," Lambert said.

Where was the video found and why is it important

British police found the video during a raid on Bayoumi's U.K. apartment in the days after 9/11. They also seized Bayoumi's hand-written address book that the lawyers for the 9/11 families say was filled with phone numbers of numerous senior Saudi officials who were in the government at the time.

When Bayoumi recorded the Washington video, he was often with two Saudi diplomats who the FBI says had "ties to al Qaeda," a finding the Saudi government disputes.

Retired FBI agent Ken Williams led the 9/11 investigation in Phoenix, where one of the hijackers attended flight school. He believes the Bayoumi video "ranks right at the top of the pile" of evidence. Williams strongly disagrees with the Saudi government's stance that the video was one Bayoumi took as a tourist.

The British police are believed to have turned over the video to the FBI shortly after 9/11, which raises the question: why, after more than 20 years, is it just now surfacing?

"If that was missed then shame on us for missing it," Williams, who is also a consultant on the case filed by the 9/11 families, said. "If it wasn't missed, then I would have to ask the question: What was done with it?"

The Saudi government and Bayoumi deny any involvement in the 9/11 attacks and lawyers for the government have filed a motion to dismiss the case. Oral arguments are scheduled for later this summer.

60 Minutes has reached out to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington, D.C. and the attorneys representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

The FBI declined to comment about ongoing ligation after being contacted by 60 Minutes.

This report aired on the CBS Evening News on Thursday, June 20. Cecilia Vega's full report is set to air on 60 Minutes in the fall.

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