“The 9/11 attacks could have been derailed in San Diego, had the CIA not spiked a memo alerting the FBI about an Al Qaeda terrorist who was coming to the United States and ended up living here in 2000.
Former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was assigned to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, said CIA officials blocked the memo to the FBI because the agency was complicit with Saudi intelligence agents who were trying to recruit Khalid al-Mihdhar and/or Nawaf al-Hazmi. Mihdhar and Hazmi, both Saudis, lived in Clairemont and Lemon Grove in 2000 and were in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi and former Clairemont resident who many local Muslims suspected of being a Saudi spy, was assigned to shadow Mihdhar and Hazmi, said Rossini. When asked if Bayoumi was also supposed to recruit the terrorists, Rossini said, “Of course he was. How else could he just bump into them and get them an apartment? That’s the whole point. It’s an outrage.”
Bayoumi’s story was told in the San Diego Reader’s July 27 issue. He emerged as the most enigmatic character in the 9/11 saga. Bayoumi claimed that he met Mihdhar and Hazmi by accident in a Los Angeles restaurant on February 1, 2000, and persuaded them to move to San Diego. On February 4, 2000, he was helping the pair fill out a rental application and move next door to him at a Clairemont apartment complex. He also helped the terrorists open a bank account and paid their first month’s rent, for which he was promptly reimbursed. Bayoumi claimed he was simply doing a favor for fellow Muslims. Investigations by the FBI and 9/11 Commission concluded that Bayoumi did not have prior knowledge of the attacks and the assistance he gave the terrorists was unwitting. Neither body addressed the possibility that he may have been ordered by Saudi intelligence to recruit the pair, though their reports acknowledged that Bayoumi was suspected of being a Saudi agent who kept tabs on local Saudis.
Rossini, whose job was counterterrorism, is the first law-enforcement official who investigated the 9/11 attacks to call Bayoumi a Saudi spy. Rossini lives in Europe and was interviewed by phone while visiting family in New York City.
The unsent memo was mentioned in the report by the Office of the Inspector General, which investigated the bureau’s role leading up to the attacks. The report documents how a CIA analyst stopped the FBI agent who wrote the memo from sending it to his superiors. The analyst also ordered Rossini and the memo writer not to even informally tell FBI headquarters about the memo’s contents: a two-paragraph note that said Mihdhar was a member of Al Qaeda and had a U.S. visa. Had the CIA allowed the memo to be sent, Rossini said, he is “200 percent” confident that the 9/11 attacks “would have been stopped.”