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Bin Laden may have arranged family’s US exit: FBI docs


Osama bin Laden may have char­tered a plane that car­ried his fam­i­ly mem­bers and Sau­di nation­als out of the Unit­ed States after the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attacks, said FBI doc­u­ments released Wednes­day.

The papers, obtained through the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act, were made pub­lic by Judi­cial Watch, a Wash­ing­ton-based group that inves­ti­gates gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion.

One FBI doc­u­ment referred to a Ryan Air 727 air­plane that depart­ed Los Ange­les Inter­na­tion­al Air­port on Sep­tem­ber 19, 2001, and was said to have car­ried Sau­di nation­als out of the Unit­ed States.

“The plane was char­tered either by the Sau­di Ara­bi­an roy­al fam­i­ly or Osama bin Laden,” accord­ing to the doc­u­ment, which was among 224 pages post­ed online.

The flight made stops in Orlan­do, Flori­da; Wash­ing­ton, DC; and Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts and even­tu­al­ly left its pas­sen­gers in Paris the fol­low­ing day.

In all, the doc­u­ments detail six flights between Sep­tem­ber 14 and Sep­tem­ber 24 that evac­u­at­ed Sau­di nation­als and bin Laden fam­i­ly mem­bers, Judi­cial Watch said in a state­ment.

“Incred­i­bly, not a sin­gle Sau­di nation­al nor any of the bin Laden fam­i­ly mem­bers pos­sessed any infor­ma­tion of inves­tiga­tive val­ue,” Judi­cial Watch said.

“These doc­u­ments con­tain numer­ous errors and incon­sis­ten­cies which call to ques­tion the thor­ough­ness of the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the Sau­di flights.

“For exam­ple, on one doc­u­ment, the FBI claims to have inter­viewed 20 of 23 pas­sen­gers on the Ryan Inter­na­tion­al Air­lines flight ... on anoth­er doc­u­ment the FBI claims to have inter­viewed 15 to 22 pas­sen­gers on the same flight.”

Asked about the doc­u­ments’ asser­tion that either bin Laden or the Sau­di roy­als ordered the flight, an FBI spokesman said the infor­ma­tion was inac­cu­rate.

“There is no new infor­ma­tion here. Osama bin Laden did not char­ter a flight out of the US,” FBI spe­cial agent Richard Kolko said.

“This is just an inflam­ma­to­ry head­line by Judi­cial Watch to catch peo­ple’s atten­tion. This was thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed by the FBI.”

Kolko point­ed to the 9–11 Com­mis­sion Report, which was the book-length result of an offi­cial probe into the attacks on the World Trade Cen­ter in New York and the Pen­ta­gon in Wash­ing­ton that killed near­ly 3,000 peo­ple.

“No polit­i­cal inter­ven­tion was found. And most impor­tant, the FBI con­duct­ed a sat­is­fac­to­ry screen­ing of Sau­di nation­als that left on char­tered flights. This is all avail­able in the report,” Kolko said.

On the issue of flights of Sau­di nation­als leav­ing the Unit­ed States, the 9–11 report said: “We found no evi­dence of polit­i­cal inter­ven­tion” to facil­i­tate the depar­ture of Sau­di nation­als.

The com­mis­sion also said: “Our own inde­pen­dent review of the Sau­di nation­als involved con­firms that no one with known links to ter­ror­ism depart­ed on these flights.”

Mered­ith Dilib­er­to, an attor­ney with Judi­cial Watch, said that her group had seen a first ver­sion of the doc­u­ments in 2005, although the FBI had heav­i­ly redact­ed the texts to black out names, includ­ing all ref­er­ences to bin Laden.

Nev­er­the­less, unedit­ed foot­notes in the texts allowed lawyers to deter­mine that bin Laden’s name had been redact­ed. They pressed the issue in court and in Novem­ber 2006, the FBI was ordered to re-release the doc­u­ments.

Dilib­er­to said men­tion that “either” bin Laden or Sau­di roy­als had char­tered the flight “real­ly threw us for a loop.”

“When you com­bine that with some of the fam­i­ly mem­bers not being inter­viewed, we found it very dis­turb­ing.”


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