Defectors from Iran's intelligence service have testified that Iranian officials "had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks," according to a federal lawsuit filed in New York against Iran on behalf of families of 9/11 victims. The testimony is being submitted to a judge under seal, thus complicating efforts to conduct a comprehensive independent analysis of its contents.
Nevertheless, the suit is said to seek damages for Iran's "direct support for, and sponsorship of, the most deadly act of terrorism in American history," and alleges that Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, provided training and travel for the 9/11 hijackers as well as help for al-Qaida operatives in escaping after the attacks. In addition to naming Iran in the $100 billion civil suit, the victims' families also targeted al-Qaida, the Taliban, and "others."
According to defector testimony, top officials from al-Qaida, Hizballah and Iran met several times Iran in the months before the attacks. The unnamed defector also claims his allegations are "supported by government letters and memoranda, photographs and organizational charts."
Suggestions of Iranian complicity in the 9/11 attacks first surfaced in the national 9/11 Commission, though the topic has long been debated given the ideological divide between the Shiite regime in Tehran and the radical Sunni al-Qaida group. Despite their differences, intelligence officials have asserted for some time that the two entities have cooperated to a limited extent against their common enemy, the United States.
The current court filing includes 10 reports from former 9/11 commission staff members as well as ex-CIA officers. These officers reviewed the defectors' testimony and determined it to be credible, according to Janice Kephart, a former lawyer with the 9/11 Commission and expert witness in the suit.
Thomas E. Mellon Jr., a lawyer for the families, said "these experts make it clear that 9/11 depended upon Iranian assistance to al-Qaida in acquiring clean passports and visas to enter the United States." However, the reports fail to support the defectors' claim that Iran had prior knowledge of the attacks.
The defectors, whose identities and testimonies are not disclosed in the court filing for security reasons, worked in Iran's Ministry of Information and Security "in positions that gave them access to sensitive information regarding Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism."