On the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a federal judge directed the Saudi Arabian government to make as many as 24 current and former officials available for depositions about their possible knowledge of events leading up to the airplane attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed almost 3,000 Americans. Those officials include Prince Bandar, the former ambassador to the United States, and his longtime chief of staff.
The order was immediately hailed by families of the 9/11 victims as a milestone in their years-long effort to prove that some Saudi officials were either complicit in the attacks or aware of the kingdom’s support for some of the hijackers in the months before they hijacked four American airliners and crashed three of them into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.
A fourth plane, whose presumed target was the U.S. Capitol, was commandeered by passengers and crashed in Shanksville, Pa., where President Trump and possibly Joe Biden are expected at memorial ceremonies Friday .
“This is a game changer,” Brett Eagleson, whose father was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Towers and who serves as a spokesman for the families, said of the ruling by Federal Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in New York. “This is the most significant ruling we’ve had to date in this lawsuit. And to have this on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, you couldn’t script this any better. The families are elated.”
The effect of the ruling may depend on the willingness of the Saudi government to make its citizens available for testimony — especially since it includes some high-ranking figures who no longer hold official positions and therefore cannot be compelled to testify. But any open defiance of the court ruling by the Saudis, or resistance from some of the figures named, could further exacerbate a relationship that has already been strained by the 2018 Saudi assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi — an act the CIA has concluded was likely ordered by the country’s de factor ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.