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- The Trump administration is going to release the name of a Saudi official who allegedly helped the 9/11 hijackers.
- The name will not be released publicly for now, but to the family members of victims of the attacks.
- This move runs contrary to President Donald Trump's steadfast support for Saudi Arabia, despite bipartisan calls for him to rethink the relationship with the kingdom over Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's killing and the Yemen war.
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The Trump administration is planning to provide the identity of a Saudi official who allegedly helped the 9/11 hijackers to family members of victims of the terror attacks that occurred 18 years ago.
The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The victims' family members have been pressuring the Trump administration to release the information. In a recent letter to President Trump, they called on him to "instruct Attorney General Barr not to invoke privileges and to give us the FBI documents so that we can finally learn the full truth and obtain justice from Saudi Arabia."
The FBI said they would release the identity of the Saudi official the victims' families most wanted, according to The Journal's report, citing the "exceptional nature of the case." Other information the families were after will not be released.
The name of the Saudi official will be released to lawyers representing the family members but will not be disclosed publicly for now, CNN reported. Barr made the final decision to release the name.
This is linked to a lawsuit from the family members against Saudi Arabia that alleges it was involved in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. The vast majority of the hijackers who carried out the 9/11 terror attacks — 15 out of 19 — were from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attacks.
In 2018, the families subpoenaed the FBI for an unredacted version of a four-page summary of an inquiry into three people who might have assisted two of the 9/11 hijackers.
An FBI official told Insider: "The plaintiffs' subpoena seeks broad categories of documents pertaining to ongoing FBI investigations relating to the 9/11 attacks. The plaintiffs have made clear that their priority is obtaining information regarding the identity of an individual mentioned in an FBI report as potentially having tasked two Saudi officials, Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi, with assisting two of the hijackers."
The official said the FBI's response to the subpoena "is ongoing, and additional documents are expected to be produced in the future."
"The FBI's top priorities are protecting and defending the US against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats," the official added. "In order to fulfill its mission, the FBI must protect, among other things, sensitive investigative information and intelligence, sources and methods, information obtained from foreign partners, and other information the disclosure of which would be harmful to national security."
President Donald Trump has faced ongoing criticism in Washington over his steadfast support for Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Justice Department's decision to release the name of the Saudi official runs contrary to that trend.
Prince Mohammed is widely believed to have ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national who wrote for The Washington Post. Khashoggi's killing has sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and combined with concerns over Saudi Arabia's role in the war in Yemen has led to bipartisan calls for the US to reevaluate its relationship with the kingdom.