Report: FBI holding 80,000 secret files on Saudis and 9/11

According to Shane Harris at the Daily Beast, the FBI has 80,000 classified documents, many of which deal with Saudi connections to the 9/11 terror plot.  What’s in them?

By Brandon Davis, PoliticKING

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For the past two years, U.S. District Court Judge William Zloch has been going through vast files, page by page, to determine if information pertaining to a curious Saudi 9/11 case could be released.  

In April 2002, “based upon repeated citizen calls,” the FBI opened an investigation into the family, which “revealed many connections” between members who previously resided in Sarasota, Florida “and individuals associated with the terrorist attacks” of 9/11.

Investigators later interviewed members of the family and found no connections to the 9/11 terrorists, the FBI concluded. 

In 2011, two Irish journalists, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, were publishing a book on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, contacted Dan Christensen, a veteran Florida reporter.  They had heard about the Sarasota family in question and had a source—an unnamed counterterrorism official—who claimed to have detailed knowledge of the FBI’s investigation into the family. This included phone records that showed calls to and from the house connected to hijackers involved with 9/11.

Their source also said that visitor logs from the security gate of the community showed that hijacker, Ziad Jarrah, had come to the house.  Those logs had been turned over to the FBI.

The journalists teamed up and published an exposé.  The story was an instant sensation, prompting the FBI to publicly declare that the case had been investigated and found to have no merit.

Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who had led the congressional inquiry that produced those 28 pages on Saudi connections, was stunned by the Sarasota allegations.  The FBI hadn’t given Graham’s committee any information about the family or their suspected ties to other hijackers.

The journalists findings “open[ed] the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11,” Graham said at the time.

Zloch, the judge in the case, was not persuaded the FBI was revealing everything.  He ordered the FBI to conduct a new search of its files, using a different method and this time, they hit the mother lode.

“The FBI found some additional responsive documents which it produced,” Julin said.  “But it also found 80,266 pages of material in the Tampa Field Office of the FBI which had been marked with the file number for the FBI’s PENTTBOM investigation.”  PENTTBOM, which stands for Pentagon/Twin Towers Bombing, is the codename for the FBI’s investigation of the 9/11 attacks.

The judge ordered the FBI to hand over all 80,000-plus pages on May 1, 2014.  He is still going through them to determine which may be released and has given no indication when he might finish.

His task is made more difficult by strict security rules governing review of classified documents, even for a sitting judge.  The files are kept in a secure facility, and he can only remove a portion at a time.

There are several conflicting issues to the stance of the FBI.  For instance, they say that phone records searches showed no links between the house and the hijackers. Christensen’s confidential source says the opposite is true.  If the FBI is right, Christensen asks, then why not just release the information and put the dispute to rest?

President Obama could elect to declassify the pages himself.  Or he could defer to the judgment of the panel. Doing so would give him some political cover, but revealing them would allow the president to make good on his commitment to finally let the public see what those pages have to say.

This article was sourced by journalist Shane Harris.  The full version is available on The Daily Beast

Sen. Graham sat with us to discuss this topic:

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