By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
A federal judge has ruled the FBI unlawfully withheld from the Florida Bulldog key sections of records of its investigation of a Saudi family that fled Sarasota two weeks before the 9/11 attacks – leaving behind cars, clothes, furniture, food and other belongings.
The Bulldog sued the FBI for the records in 2012 after reporting that Abdulaziz and Anoud al-Hijji, who lived in a gated community near Sarasota, had ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers, an al Qaeda figure and the Saudi royal family. The Bulldog, working with Irish author Anthony Summers, had revealed that the FBI had investigated the family in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks but never disclosed its investigation to Congress or the 9/11 Commission.
The FBI responded quickly to that Bulldog report from 2011 with press releases denying its investigation had found any connections between the al-Hijjis and the hijackers, and claiming it turned over its work to Congress. The Bulldog suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) then forced the FBI to cough up records of the investigation.
The FBI turned over to the Bulldog just 81 pages of heavily-censored memos and notes, a fraction of the paperwork that’s typically generated in such investigations. An April 16, 2002, memo included in the release showed, however, that at least one unnamed FBI agent had found “many connections” between the al-Hijjis and the 9/11 hijackers. The FBI blacked out the entire last paragraph of that memo on national security grounds.
Abdulaziz al-Hijji’s father-in-law is Esam Ghazzawi, a rich Saudi Arabian businessman with ties to the kingdom’s ruling House of Saud and international and American political leaders.
Seven year fight
For seven years, the Bulldog has been fighting to unveil that paragraph, as well as other withheld information, on grounds that they might shed light on whether the Saudi government was complicit in 2001 with the 9/11 hijackers, a position that thousands of 9/11 victim families and survivors have taken in lawsuits against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels has focused a large and important New York case on 9/11 hijacker connections to probable Saudi agents in San Diego. To date, he has held that evidence the hijackers may have been assisted by possible Saudi agents elsewhere in the U.S. was too tenuous even to explore.
The new, Aug. 22 ruling by Fort Lauderdale Senior U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch rejects the FBI’s claim that the withheld paragraph would reveal secret techniques and procedures. Zloch also ordered the release of an FBI “analyst’s note” from 2011 which appears to comment on the April 16, 2002 “many connections” memo.
“This material is highly relevant to plaintiff’s request,” Zloch wrote about the hidden note.
The judge has granted the FBI a chance to appeal his order before it must release the information. The FBI has not yet said whether it will appeal. The Bulldog’s lawyers, led by Miami attorney Thomas Julin, also are evaluating whether to appeal.
Many FBI records to remain hidden
Zloch also upheld many of the FBI’s other redactions and declined to order the release of all FBI records of its Sarasota investigation. Also not be released under the judge’s order are 80,266 classified pages of FBI 9/11 records produced for his private review.
Again and again in his 95-page order, Zloch otherwise upheld the FBI’s contentions that it had thoroughly searched its files for requested records, correctly withheld what was exempt from disclosure and made public what it could about its investigation of the al-Hijjis.
“In this case, there has been much speculation about what the FBI had done with respect to the subjects of an alleged investigation. But, the Court has neither heard nor seen any evidence that Plaintiffs contentions about the FBI’s actions are accurate,” Zloch wrote.
“The Court assures Plaintiffs that the files do not contain any documentary evidence that belies the representations of Defendants…The Court recognizes that this conclusion cannot quench the thirst for answers.”
Questions about the FBI’s Sarasota probe are legion:
Where are the reports and memos that typically document FBI investigations, including agency “FD 302” reports of interviews with witnesses and subjects? Why do the FBI’s own internal documents flatly contradict the FBI’s public assertions that no connection was found to the 9/11 plot? Why did the FBI assert national security to withhold information? Where is evidence that should have been routinely collected by FBI agents, including gatehouse and telephone records that the law enforcement source who disclosed the existence of the investigation said revealed connections to Mohamed Atta and other terrorist figures? Why weren’t Congress and the 9/11 Commission made aware of what happened in Sarasota?
Do records exist, or don’t they?
Answers may well lie behind a veil of secrecy so bizarre that it allows the FBI to say that certain sensitive records don’t exist when in fact they do exist.
That authority was granted in a 1986 amendment to the Freedom of Information Act that incorporated an “exclusion” that allows the FBI to treat classified records about foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism, as “not subject to the requirements” of the act. Justice Department guidelines say that means that those who request excluded records can be told, “there exist no records responsive to your FOIA request.”
When the law is invoked, the government often submits a secret declaration with the court explaining its claim. That appears to be what happened before Judge Zloch. Previously, the FBI filed two confidential declarations by Records Section Chief David Hardy. Copies were not provided to Florida Bulldog.
That scenario also tends to explain Zloch’s observation that “a court’s evaluation of a FOIA request in no way tasks the court with determining whether an agency has performed its duties, other than the search at hand, with due care.”
Zloch explained he was looking narrowly for “some indication that documents exist and that a search has not located them because it has been too deficient or scanty to do so. Instead, what has emerged is that Plaintiffs believe the FBI should have performed an investigation, not that it has done so and has concealed the related documents.”
The FOI lawsuit was filed in 2012 by Broward Bulldog Inc., parent of Florida Bulldog, after the FBI refused to release any information about its long-hidden Sarasota investigation, except to say that it had found no ties to the 9/11 plot and claim that it had notified Congress – a claim long disputed by former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, co-chair of Congress’s Joint Inquiry into 9/11.
Zloch’s highly detailed order, which took seven years to produce, followed his earlier criticism of the FBI. In 2014, Zloch ordered the FBI to do a more thorough records search after it failed to convince him it had done so in response to the Bulldog’s FOIA request concerning its investigation of apparent pre-9/11 terrorist activity in Sarasota. The judge’s order led the FBI to turn over to him the 80,000 pages that it said were the sum of all 9/11 records maintained in its Tampa field office.
Zloch’s order says he “made certain that an incredibly thorough search was undertaken” and observed that he treated the Bulldog’s concerns about the FBI’s search for records “with the utmost gravity” as he examined “in camera, page-by-page, the universe of documents that were searched by Defendants.
“The court cannot provide, nor would be at liberty to divulge, any specific answers to the lingering questions Plaintiffs may have about this investigation, which will surely remain long after the above-styled cause,” Zloch wrote.
Bill Bergman / August 26, 2019 9:08 am
Many thanks for your hard work. That last paragraph was a downer, e.g. ‘… nor would be at liberty to divulge …’ but progress is progress.
Jeannie DeQuine / August 26, 2019 9:26 am
Good job in dogging this story for years. It is puzzling why so many media have ignored it for so long. Thanks to the Bulldog and former Sen. Bob Graham, this inquiry has not gone away. Keep up the good work!
John Hiatt / August 26, 2019 10:00 am
John Hiatt / August 26, 2019 10:05 am
I saw a TV documentary where the FBI had a pic of a couple they couldnt identify in front of the Oklahoma City Courthouse before Tim McVey blew it up. Have they been able to identify the couple yet? Maybe a magnified pic better seen by the public could reveal who they are.
Mark Isenberg / August 26, 2019 10:26 am
Finally, a bit of progress and we shall see after appeals and the release of a paragraph if it leads to more eventual nuggets of facts instead of the usual conspiracy theories. The FBI has dragged this out for more than one bad reason and its reputation will suffer some more as a result.But if nothing does link the Sarasota relatives of Bin Laden fleeing the community,some one should still be asking hard questions on FBI motives.It was their lack of communication with CIA and NSA folks in part that led to Sept. 11,2001. Mr.O’Neil was connecting dots and they did not help him enough.
Edward A Crespo / August 26, 2019 12:39 pm
Good job, Florida Bulldog! However, and I say this very sadly, I’m not sure your long-term efforts will result in anything even close to a full disclosure. Think about it…how many people and/or entities in the past have gone up against the FBI in the same way and for the same reason – and how many of them actually succeeded and to what degree? Do you really believe that the “Almighty FBI” is ever going to voluntarily produce documents that would put them in a compromising or embarrassing position? More to the point, is anybody out there gullible and naive enough to believe that Zloch’s so-called “incredibly thorough search” was nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors ploy to assist the FBI in the cover-up? Are we supposed to believe that Zloch conducted a “page-by page” in-camera review of EIGHTY THOUSAND PAGES OF DOCUMENTS??? Seriously! And what did Zloch actually come up with in the end – or yeah, that’s right…NOTHING! There was NO in-camera review of the (purported) 80,000 pages, judges don’t do that! It would have taken him MONTHS! At 500 sheets per ream, 80,000 pages would be ONE HUNDRED SIXTY (160) REAMS OF PAPER!!! Care to explain how you managed to accomplish that feat, “Your Honor”? He’s full of sh#t!!!
Mark T Rossini / August 26, 2019 1:59 pm
Nothing but the light of day is the best disinfectant.
Jon Gold / August 26, 2019 5:55 pm
Congratulations to Dan and everyone else at the Florida Bulldog. I’m sure everyone that has been paying attention are extremely appreciative of your efforts. I know that I am.
William H Fields Jr / August 26, 2019 8:12 pm
As a immediate family memeber we definitely appreciate the steps people have taken to finally get all of this out I have been saying for years that it will come out and the family members will have there victory in court all of this has taken way to long.
Judson Witham / August 26, 2019 9:43 pm
The Vast Network in Houston Texas revealed at OPERATION LONE STAR A FLOOD OF GUNS AND BLOOD reveal an out of control FBI and Pentagon Game of Conceal Tons of Criminal Conduct by Government as High as the Bush Clinton Crime Cabal operating with Congressman Charlie Wilson and many Saudis in Houston. The FBI is Out of Control. See TOXICZOMBIEDEVELOPMENTS on any search engine of Your Choice
Judson Witham / August 26, 2019 9:45 pm
OPERATION LONE STAR A FLOOD OF GUNS AND BLOOD ….. The real Scandal of DOJ and FBI Cover Ups is far far far worse than 33000 Wiped Emails
Jackson Rip Holmes / August 27, 2019 5:12 am
Dear Publisher Christensen and Esteemed Florida Bulldog readers and supporters:
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HEROISM AND FOR ILLUMINATING THE TRUTH for our arguably enslaved peoples to see.
YOU ARE THE GUIDES BEARING THE TORCH IN THE SEARCH FOR, AND FIGHT FOR, TRUTH.
Mainstream Media covers lesser truths, but only The Florida Bulldog tries to expose the most important Truths.
It is depressing that our own FBI leadership, and even seemingly sympathetic Judges, are defending a corrupted version of what really happened on 9/11/2001.
We are intellectuals, yet we as a human race, in my opinion, are STARVED OF THE TRUTH by the Powers That Be, intellectually enslaved, and thereby humiliated, in a manner beyond belief.
So what do we do?
GIVE THANKS TO BOB GRAHAM AND THE FLORIDA BULLDOG FOR LEADING THE LEGAL REVOLT AGAINST INTELLECTUAL ENSLAVEMENT, and Powers That Be — after 3 years of study, I believe the ultimate real enslavers, ala David Icke, are Extraterrestrial Reptilian shapeshifters — who get their kicks toying with the human race as if we were red ants to be tricked into battle with each other.
LONG LIVE — in my opinion –SPARTACUS BOB GRAHAM AND THE FLORIDA BULLDOG!
Jackson Rip Holmes
Barbara Tuman / August 27, 2019 8:34 am
We still don’t know the truth, too many stories. Will we ever know the whole truth.
bill warner / August 27, 2019 7:03 pm
US Judge Zloch writes, “The pages also disclose an additional confidential source CI, other than the local law enforcement agency (Sarasota Police Dept), this source provided valuable information that is detailed and singular in nature. As discussed earlier, the disclosure of the identity of this individual is in direct contradiction to the interest of the FBI”. According to the newly released documents in the Florida Bulldog Freedom of Information lawsuit filed on the Tampa FBI there appears to have been a Confidential Informant (CI) working along with local law enforcement (ICE & Sarasota Police Dept) in providing information to the FBI during the 2002 Secret Sarasota investigation into a support network for the 9/11 hijack pilots when they were in the Sarasota Fl area. During the time period from late 2002 to end of 2003 Muneer Arafat was paid $35,000 by the FBI to work as a CI in a Sarasota investigation, he revealed this information in open court during the Sami Al-Arain trial in Tampa as reported by the Tampa Trib, ‘Cleric Testifies in Al Arian Trial’ By MICHAEL FECHTER. Arafat was arrested in Sarasota Fl in Nov 2002 by ICE for overstaying his visa, he was shipped off to St Louis to testify before a Federal Grand Jury investigating people with links to 9/11 including his roommate Ziyad khaleel as reported by the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. When Arafat returned to Sarasota in December of 2002 he was now working for the FBI.
MrLiberty / August 27, 2019 11:40 pm
But what about all the evidence tying them all to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the CIA, Mossad, and all the other players that fateful day? Yeah, I’m not holding my breath either.
MoroCurtis / August 28, 2019 10:04 am
They do not show these documents because they are controlled by these people. It is obvious. It is not strange, the court is also an instance controlled by the ruling elite. Anyway you have to dig to the truth! We will all support you in this matter. Sooner or later the truth will come out!
Steve Duane / September 5, 2019 7:13 am
There is an interesting article in Issue 9 of Eye Spy magazine 2002 entitled “The Strange Case Of Urban Moving Systems” stating the connection between 9/11 hijackers and Israeli art students deported before September 11. Many veteran law enforcement officers tried to push this investigation up the chain of command, to no avail. This investigation was stalled from various angles! Senator Bob Graham is truly a noble American!
Stoic / September 8, 2019 4:04 am
Government agencies are going to have to be forced to provide American citizens with a basic level of transparency. It’s just not inherently clear that they’re on our side anymore.
-Saudis kill thousands of Americans
-The US intelligence response is to provide (false) evidence of WBD’s in Iraq
-We spend billions on wars in Iraq
Oh, and now we’re to focus Russia? Seriously?
essa / September 13, 2019 6:50 am
The Kingdom fights terrorism and has suffered from it and the press you have penetrated and untruthful and acting proxy as your universities at the moment The mother of terrorism is Qatar generously paying and the American people are defeated Look for the leaders of terrorism in the world that they are hosted by your little friend Qatar You will not do anything as long as you set up a military base costing 8 billion Qatar is a rogue state but it is your friend But money is above everything
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