Osama bin Laden
Members of Osama bin Laden’s family, on a flight perhaps chartered by Osama bin Laden, were flown out of the United States in the days right after 9/11 after the FBI approved the special flights, according to new agency documents revealed by Judicial Watch.
The public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption has obtained and released new information from the FBI that relates to the “expeditious departure” of Saudi Arabian citizens, including members of the bin Laden family, as soon as flights were allowed again after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
“According to one of the formerly confidential documents, dated 9/21/01, terrorist Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights,” the group’s report said. Bin Laden, considered to be the founder of al-Qaida and the confessed driving force behind the 9/11 attacks, has been seen numerous times in videos taunting and challenging the United States since the attacks.
Judicial Watch said the FBI documents show several chartered flights eventually were authorized during the time frame right after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, to expedite the return of the Saudi nationals to their homeland. The team of terrorists later was determined to include a majority with Saudi backgrounds.
“The document states: ‘ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN…THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE [REDACTED] LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND,'” the Judicial Watch report said.
That flight made four stops to pick up passengers before being allowed to leave the United States en route to Paris, the FBI documents reveal. It was among six such flights where the FBI briefly interviewed some passengers and inspected some luggage, the report said. Flights collected passengers or made stops in California, Texas and Florida, among several other places.
“The Saudis had at least two other planes on call. Starting in Los Angeles on an undetermined date, one of them flew first to Orlando, Florida, where Khalil bin Laden boarded. From Orlando, the plane continued to Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, D.C., before going on to Boston’s Logan International Airport on September 19, picking up members of the bin Laden family along the way,” another excerpt confirmed.
“Eight days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Osama bin Laden possibly charters a flight to whisk his family out of the country, and it’s not worth more than a luggage search and a few brief interviews?” asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Clearly these documents prove the FBI conducted a slapdash investigation of these Saudi flights. We’ll never know how many investigative leads were lost due to the FBI’s lack of diligence.”
A spokesman for the FBI, who asked that his name not be used, said the claims were investigated earlier, and found to be without grounds.
“There’s no new information,” he told WND. “Osama did not charter a flight out of the United States. It was thoroughly investigated. All of this is in the 9/11 commission report.”
The FBI does list bin Laden as among its Ten Most Wanted fugitives, for the Aug. 7, 1998, “bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya … [and] other terrorist attacks throughout the world.”
The agency warns he’s “considered armed and extremely dangerous” and offers a reward of “up to $25 million for information leading directly to the apprehension and conviction” of bin Laden.
But Judicial Watch said the FBI discovered, “incredibly,” that not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigation value. “Moreover, the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights.”
Judicial Watch said, for example, one document reports that the FBI interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight, while another page documents interviews with 15 of 22 passengers.
Judicial Watch officials said the several hundred pages of documentation are available on the Judicial Watch website.
Among the excerpts: “An FBI agent says that they had a right to leave and that being related to Osama did not constitute grounds for investigation.”
Another said, “In fact, the FBI had been keeping an eye on some of the bin Ladens. A classified FBI file … shows that as early as 1996 the bureau had spent nearly nine months investigating Abdullah and Omar bin Laden, who were involved with the American branch of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.”
The papers were obtained after U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts ordered the FBI to resubmit “proper disclosures” to the court and Judicial Watch, having previously criticized the adequacy of redaction descriptions, the validity of exemption claims, and other errors in the FBI paperwork.
“Incredibly, the FBI had previously redacted Osama bin Laden’s name from the records in order “to protect privacy interests,” Judicial Watch said.
“According to [an FBI spokesman], FBI counterterrorism agents pursuing the investigation were stranded all over the country, unable to fly for several days. Yet now the same counterterrorism unit was effectively acting as a chaperone for the Saudis,” the report added.