Washington Classified sections of Congress' Sept. 11 report lay out a web of connections among Saudi businessmen, royal family, charities and banks that may have aided al-Qaida or the suicide hijackers, according to people who have seen the report.
The report raises the possibility that one or more Saudi men who were connected to some of the hijackers or their acquaintances were tied to Saudi intelligence.
It also suggests a Muslim imam in the United States may have been a facilitator for some hijackers, the sources said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.
U.S. investigators are setting out anew to determine whether the connections are innocent coincidences in an Islamic culture that urges charitable support or a pattern of pro-terror money and patronage flowing from the wealthy kingdom that is a longtime U.S. ally, according to government officials familiar with those efforts.
Some of the most sensitive information in a 28-page classified section of the report involves what U.S. agencies are doing currently to investigate Saudi business figures and organizations, the officials said.
The congressional investigators, however, warn the leads they have dug up for the FBI and CIA to pursue are at times contradictory or circumstantial. U.S. intelligence and FBI investigators view the evidence of ties to Saudi intelligence as unclear, the officials said.
"On the one hand, it is possible that these kinds of connections could suggest, as indicated in a CIA memorandum, 'incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists,'" one passage from the unclassified section of the report states. "On the other hand, it is also possible that further investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations."
Top Saudi officials have called for the public release of the still-secret sections of the report that deal with possible Saudi terror connections and say it is ridiculous to suggest the royal family would deliberately fund an al-Qaida movement dedicated to its overthrow.
Adel al-Jubeir, a Saudi foreign policy adviser, said his government hadn't seen the classified section of the report but believes much of the evidence is likely uncorroborated.