For more than 20 years, successive US presidents have given Saudi Arabia a pass on the question of whether the kingdom's government had anything to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As the story goes, plenty of individual Saudis were involved — including 15 of the 19 hijackers and Osama bin Laden — but there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government itself was behind the attacks. That's more or less what the 9/11 Commission concluded, and the Saudi government continues to cite the commission's report in official statements
as proof that "Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with this terrible crime."
In its report, the commission took particular pains not to implicate Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national who met two of the 9/11 hijackers in Los Angeles shortly after they arrived in the US. Bayoumi then helped them move to San Diego, where he signed as the guarantor on an apartment they rented.
Bayoumi has long maintained that he met the hijackers by coincidence, a claim the commission did little to contradict. Instead, it painted a mostly innocuous portrait of Bayoumi's background, concluding that he was in the US "as a business student" and that he worked for the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority. "I don't believe he was a 'Saudi government agent' working to help terrorists," wrote Philip Zelikow
, the 9/11 Commission's executive director, in response to questions from a journalist in 2007.