Nor Cal Truth Mar 15, 2012
MSNBC has carried a couple of articles in the past few days relating to the important Florida-Saudi-9/11 connections. Mishandling investigations, cover-ups, Suadi support of 9/11, Senators wanting more answers, US complicity….this is big news!
Please visit all original sources for the full length articles, and to show MSNBC that you care that they covered these important and unresolved issues.
A Saudi man who triggered an FBI investigation after he and his family left their Sarasota, Fla., area home and moved overseas two weeks before 9/11 considered Osama bin Laden a “hero” and may have known some of the hijackers, an informant told the FBI in 2004.
The informant also told authorities that the Saudi, Abdulazziz al-Hijji, once introduced him to Adnan El Shukrijumah – another former Florida resident and suspected top al-Qaida operative who today has a $5 million bounty on his head.
Al-Hijji’s name made headlines in September 2011 when The Miami Herald reported on a counterterrorism source’s disclosure of a previously unknown FBI-led probe that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington — one that pointed to a possible Saudi support operation for the hijackers in Florida.
A decade after the nation’s worst terrorist attack, which claimed the lives of 3,000 people, al-Hijji has now been found to be living in London, where he works for Aramco Overseas, the European subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company. His job title is career counselor.
In the weeks before 9/11, al-Hijji – then 27 — and his wife, Anoud, daughter of an adviser to a member of the Saudi royal family, departed their home at 4224 Escondito Circle in the upscale gated community of Prestancia and returned to Saudi Arabia.
After the 9/11 attacks, an alarmed neighbor contacted the FBI. When several weeks passed without action, Prestanica resident and administrator Larry Berberich alerted local law enforcement. Authorities, including the FBI, moved in.
The investigation led to a stunning development, according to Berberich and a counterterrorism officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The car registration numbers of vehicles that had passed through the Prestancia community’s North Gate in the months before 9/11, coupled with the identification documents shown by incoming drivers on request, showed that Mohamed Atta and several of his fellow hijackers – and another Saudi terror suspect still at large – had visited 4224 Escondito Circle on multiple occasions,” the source said.
The others included Marwan al-Shehhi, who plowed a United Airlines jet into the World Trade Center’s South Tower; Ziad Jarrah, who crashed another United jet into a Pennsylvania field; and Walid al-Shehri, who flew with Atta on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center. Also identified as having visited: Saudi-born fugitive Adnan Shukrijumah.
The source said law enforcement “also conducted a link analysis that tracked phone calls – based on dates, times and length of phone conversations to and from the Escondito house – dating back more than a year before 9/11. And the phone traffic also connected with the 9/11 terrorists – though less directly than the gate logs did.”
Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired Congress’ Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has seen two classified FBI documents that he says are at odds with the bureau’s public statements that there was no connection between the hijackers and Saudis then living in Sarasota, Fla.
“There are significant inconsistencies between the public statements of the FBI in September and what I read in the classified documents,” Graham said.
“One document adds to the evidence that the investigation was not the robust inquiry claimed by the FBI,” Graham said. “An important investigative lead was not pursued and unsubstantiated statements were accepted as truth.”
Whether the 9/11 hijackers acted alone, or whether they had support within the U.S., remains an unanswered question — one that began to be asked as soon as it became known that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. It was underlined when Congress’s bipartisan inquiry released its public report in July 2003. The final 28 pages, regarding possible foreign support for the terrorists, were censored in their entirety — on President George W. Bush’s instructions.
Graham said the two classified FBI documents that he saw, dated 2002 and 2003, were prepared by an agent who participated in the Sarasota investigation. He said the agent suggested that another federal agency be asked to join the investigation, but that the idea was “rejected.”
Graham attempted in recent weeks to contact the agent, he said, only to find the man had been instructed by FBI headquarters not to talk.
Graham shared this development with the Obama White House, which responded by setting up a meeting between Graham and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce. According to the former senator, Joyce told Graham he “didn’t want to talk” about the Sarasota episode. Graham said he was assured, however, that he would shortly be shown material that supported the FBI’s denials, and a further meeting was arranged with an FBI aide.
In December, Graham said, the scheduled meeting was abruptly canceled and he was told he would be allowed no further access to FBI information about Sarasota.
Graham believes the joint congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks was not the only national investigative body kept in the dark about Sarasota. He said the co-chairs of the later 9/11 Commission, Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, have told him they also were unaware of it.
Kean, a former New Jersey governor, told Graham the commission would have “worked it hard,” because the hypothesis that the hijackers completed the planning alone was “implausible,” the former senator said.
Kean did not return several phone messages seeking comment. But Hamilton, a former Indiana congressman, confirmed this month that he learned nothing about the Sarasota matter while serving as vice-chair of the 9/11 commission.
Graham sees the information now emerging about Sarasota as ominously similar to discoveries his inquiry made in California. Leads there indicated that the first two hijackers to reach the U.S., Saudis Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, received help first from a diplomat at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles and then from two other Saudis, one of whom helped al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi find a place to live. Multiple sources told investigators they believed both the latter Saudis had been Saudi government agents.
Later, when 9/11 Commission staff gained limited access to these individuals in Saudi Arabia, the aides’ reaction was caustic. One memo described the testimony of one of them as “deceptive … inconsistent … implausible.” The testimony of another displayed an “utter lack of credibility,” it said.
Graham is troubled by what he sees as FBI headquarters’ apparent effort to conceal information, including the fact that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi lived for months in California in the home of a paid FBI informant. Even when that emerged, the FBI denied his inquiry access to the informant. Graham wonders if that was merely because of the bureau’s embarrassment, or because the informant knew something that “would be even more damaging were it revealed.”
Graham sees what he believes to be the suppression of evidence pointing to Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers as arising from the perceived advantages to the West, at the time and now, of keeping Saudi Arabia happy.
The FBI mishandled its investigation of the travel of a Saudi prince and his companions out of Florida within days of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, new interviews, 9/11 Commission documents and FBI files reveal. And its detailed report on the matter, drawn up for members of Congress and President George W. Bush, was inaccurate.
The new reporting springs from suspicions that a well-connected Saudi living in Sarasota, Fla., may have associated with the 9/11 hijackers. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired Congress’ Joint Inquiry into 9/11, has suggested that the FBI’s investigation of the Sarasota matter “was not the robust inquiry claimed by the FBI. An important investigative lead was not pursued and unsubstantiated statements were accepted as fact.”
These concerns have led to a re-examination of the efforts to get out of the U.S. immediately following the 9/11 attacks by a Saudi royal, Prince Sultan bin Fahd, and several companions. Their travel began in Tampa, a short drive from Sarasota.
The review of how the FBI dealt with and reported on the travel of the Florida-based Saudis, and their subsequent departure from the United States with other Saudis, shows that the FBI failed to interview principal witnesses; relied on erroneous second-hand information; misinterpreted the orders under which the FAA managed the closure and subsequent reopening of U.S. airspace after the 9/11 attacks; misreported the means of travel; and even got Prince Sultan’s identity wrong.
Sometime on the day following the attacks, Prince Sultan, a grandnephew of the late King Fahd and a student at the University of Tampa’s American Language Academy, began trying to leave Florida, according to 9/11 Commission files. He did so on the instructions of his uncle, Prince Ahmed bin Salman, a Saudi media baron and fabulously wealthy racehorse owner who was in Lexington, Ky. for the annual yearling sales. According to a Lexington police officer – his name is redacted in FBI documents – who coordinated security for the younger prince’s travel from Tampa, Ahmed told Sultan to get to Lexington and join him on a flight out of the U.S.
The closure of U.S. airspace, meanwhile, led briefly to talk of Prince Sultan and his companions instead making the 700-mile journey to Lexington by car. But an FAA Notice to Airmen – a “NOTAM” – that U.S. airspace would reopen to domestic commercial and charter flights at 11 a.m. ET on Sept. 13, cleared them to fly, FAA records show.
At about 4:30 p.m. that afternoon, Grossi met the prince and his party of four – later named as Fahad al-Zied, Ahmed al-Hazmi (the fact that this is the same last name as two of the 9-11 hijackers may well be mere coincidence) and Talal al-Mejrad, son of a Saudi army officer – at Raytheon Services, away from the main Tampa airport terminal. With the Saudis and the security men on board, a cream-colored Lear Jet supplied by the Fort Lauderdale charter company Hop-A-Jet lifted off at 4:37, FAA records and Tampa Airport data show.
Two years after 9/11, in a Vanity Fair story titled “Saving the Saudis,” author Craig Unger raised numerous questions about the role the FBI had played in facilitating that and various other flights involved in the panicky Saudi exodus from the United States. The article obscured the facts on the travel from Tampa, unfortunately, with a claim that the flight had been allowed to take place “when U.S. citizens were still restricted from flying.” In fact, as the FAA record makes clear, the flight took place several hours after the FAA had opened airspace to charter flights.
In the wake of the Vanity Fair story, when U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and John Kyl raised questions, the FBI prepared a 40-page response for the senators and the White House addressing all Saudi travel out of the U.S. after 9/11. What it reported on the Tampa-Lexington flight, however, was not true.
Instead of just noting that the FAA record showed the travel occurred after U.S. airspace was reopened, the FBI said Sultan and his three companions “had arrived in Lexington from Tampa by car.”
“The four individuals,” the report went on, “had disobeyed the Prince [Ahmed] by traveling by car instead of by jet as the Prince had instructed them.”
The FBI insisted that “No flights arrived” in Lexington on the day in question. The assertion that there had been an incoming flight from Tampa, the FBI claimed, had been “perpetuated” by “hired security personnel” – a clear reference to the Saudis’ escorts, former policeman Grossi and former FBI agent Perez. “One of the members of the private protection detail,” the bureau’s response claimed, “had confidentially told FBI agents in Kentucky the truth about how they arrived in Lexington.”
A 9/11 Commission analysis and FBI documents, however, show that the FBI’s inquiry into the Tampa flight had relied on a lone source, a Lexington police officer whose name is also redacted in the released documents. He had merely “hemmed and hawed” when an FBI agent doubted his belief that the Saudis had traveled by air – then suggested the men had in reality traveled by car. The police officer, however, had no first-hand knowledge of the event. The FBI did not at the time interview Grossi or Perez, the security escorts who had flown with the Saudis from Tampa. It interviewed Perez only years later and has never interviewed Grossi.
The 9/11 Commission later established that none of the 14 Saudis who left for home from Kentucky was interviewed by the FBI before they were allowed to depart. According to the files, moreover, the bureau did not even figure out who Prince Sultan actually was. A Tampa police document had his name correctly as “Sultan bin Fahd,” which translates as “Sultan son of Fahd,” one of the king’s nephews. Yet FBI documents repeatedly described Sultan as the son of Prince Ahmed, who was his uncle.
Asked to comment on the catalog of apparent errors and omissions reported in this article, FBI spokesperson Kathleen Wright said on Tuesday that the matter was complex and “would be reviewed for consideration of a response.”
A senior bin Laden aide now in Guantanamo, Abu Zubaydah, is said by sources – including John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who led his capture, who said he got his information from CIA documents and colleagues – to have stated under questioning that al-Qaida had been in contact with Prince Ahmed before 9/11. The prisoner, Kiriakou said, raised the names of Ahmed and two other royals as if to indicate “he had the support of the Saudi government.”
(Kiriakou was indicted in January, accused of disclosing classified information about Zubaydah to reporters. The complaint against Kiriakou also alleged that, when submitting the manuscript for his memoir, he lied to the CIA’s Publication Review Board.)
There is a link, too, between Prince Sultan and the post-9/11 investigation in Sarasota. Esam Ghazzawi, a longtime adviser to Sultan’s father, Prince Fahd, owned the Sarasota home suspected of having been visited on multiple occasions by hijack leader Mohamed Atta and several of his accomplices.
Prince Ahmed died aged 43 in July, 2002, in circumstances that remain unclear. Prince Fahd, 46, had pre-deceased him, dying seven weeks before 9/11. A 2009 report described Prince Sultan as having become chairman of Eirad, a Saudi holding company.
It should be noted that a week ago, The New York Times carried the story of Abdulazziz al-Hijji, the Saudi who hastily left Florida and now works for as at the European division of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil complany.