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The Saudi problem

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Excerpt from Bob Graham's Intelligence Matters:

To all outward appearances, the 44-year-old Omar al-Bayoumi was employed marginally, if at all. On a rental application for his apartment in the suburbs east of San Diego, he listed his job as student and his income as $2,800 a month, which was a stipend from a family in India. He kept an office at teh Al-Munawara mosque in the town of El Cajon, where he acted as the unpaid building manager. He was known throughout the local Muslim community as a devout man with a large circle of friends.

Al-Bayoumi was neither Indian nor a stundent, however. He was a Saudi national, serving his nation as a spy. Al-Bayoumi's responsibility was to keep an eye on Saudis in San Diego, particularly college students who might be engaged in activities threatening to the Saudi Kingdom.

Since 1996, al-Bayoumi had lived in the Sand Diego suburb of Clairemont with his wife, Mamal, and four children. According to one associate, al-Bayoumi, "knew everyone. He interacted with all the mosques. He was widely accepted in the community, and if he vouched for som people, they would be accepted.

Two of the people he would soon vouch for were the future hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar.

During the last week of January 2000, al-Bayoumi and an unidentified companion got into al-Bayoumi's late model Mercedes and made the roughly two-hour drive from San Diego to Los Angeles. Before departing, al-Bayoumi had told at least one other personb that he was going to Los Angeles to pick up visitors.

Upon arriving in Los Angleles, al-Bayoumi made two stops. The first was the Saudi consultate. There, he met privately for an hour with an official from the consulate's section on Islamic and cultural affairs, Fahad al-Thumairy. Al-Thumairy, 29 at the time, had held a diplomatic position at the consulate since his assignment to Los Angeles in 1996. He also served as a prayer leader at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City a mosque that was constructed with financial support for the Saudi government and had grown to be one of California's largest houses of worship. With a number of suspected terrorist ties, he was no friend of he United States. In fact, in May 2003, the United States would revoke al-Thumairy's diplomatic visa, ban him from the United States, and put him on a plane back to Riyadh. In January 2000, however, al-Thumairy was comfortably in the United States. What he discussed with al-Bayoumi on that day is still unknown.

Following the meeting, al-Bayoumi rejoined his unknown companion and they made their second stop--a Middle Eastern restaurant several miles from the Los Angeles airport.

Al-Bayoumi would later claim that he heard Arabic being spoken at an adjacent table and in his typical hosptiable manner invited the two young men to join him. They introduced themselves as Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar.

Al-Bayoumi claimed that during the luncheon conversation al-Hazmi indicated that he and al-Mihdhar did not feel comfortable in Los Angeles. They city was too big, too intimidating, and they had been unable to integrate themselves into the Saudi community.

Al-Bayoumi expressed his disappointment at their unsatisfactory experience and offered to be of asistance should they decide to move to San Diego.

That a suspected Saudi spy would drive 125 miles to a meeting at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, where he would meet with a consular officer with suspected terrorist ties, and then drive another 7 miles to the one Middle Easter restaurant--out of more than 134 Middle Eastern restaurants in Los Angeles--where he would happen to sit next to two future terrorists, to whom he would happen to offer friendshi[p and support, cannot credibly be described as a coincidence.

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