WHAT THE FILM SAYS:
Sen. Byron Dorgan: We had some airplanes authorized at the highest levels of our government to fly to pick up Osama Bin Laden's family members and others from Saudi Arabia and transport them out of this country.
Narration: It turns out that the White House approved planes to pick up the bin Ladens and numerous other Saudis. At least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes carried the Saudis and the Bin ladens out of the U.S. after September 13th. In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country.
Additionally, in an interview with author Craig Unger, the film makes reference to the fact that these individuals were briefly interviewed before they were allowed to leave.
WHY WE SAY IT:
1. THE FLIGHTS - WHO GOT OUT WHEN
The facts stated in Fahrenheit 9/11 are well documented and are based entirely on the findings contained in the 9/11 commission draft report, which states, "After the airspace reopened, six chartered flights with 142 people, mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, departed from the United States between September 14 and 24. One flight, the so-called Bin Ladin flight, departed the United States on September 20 with 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Usama Bin Ladin." National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Threats and Responses in 2001, Staff Statement No. 10, The Saudi Flights, p. 12
Unfortunately, some news organizations have misinterpreted what the film says. Some have said Fahrenheit 9/11 alleges that these flights out of the country took place when commercial airplanes were still grounded. The film does not say this. The film states clearly that these flights left after September 13 (the day the FAA began to slowly lift the ban on air traffic).
2. WHO APPROVED THESE FLIGHTS AND WHY
We really do not know why it was so necessary for the White House to allow the quick exodus of these Saudi and bin Ladens out of the country, and "the White House still refuses to document fully how the flights were arranged," according to a June 20, 2004, article by Phil Shenon in the New York Times .
We do know who asked for help in getting Saudis out of the country - the Saudi government. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Threats and Responses in 2001, Staff Statement No. 10, The Saudi Flights, p. 12 The film also includes a television interview with Saudi Prince Bandar, confirming this as well.
Former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has testified that he approved these flights, stating that "it was a conscious decision with complete review at the highest levels of the State Department and the FBI and the White House." Testimony of Richard Clarke, Former Counterterrorism Chief, National Security Council, before The Senate Judiciary Committee, September 3, 2003.
3. DID THESE INDIVIDUALS GET SPECIAL TREATMENT BY LAW ENFORCEMENT?
Yes, according to Jack Cloonan, a former senior agent on the joint FBI-CIA Al-Qaeda task force, who is interviewed in Fahrenheit 9/11. Cloonan raises questions about the type of investigation to which these individuals were subjected, finding it highly unusual that in light of the seriousness of the attack on 9/11, bin Laden family members were allowed to leave the country and escape without anyone getting their statements on record in any kind of formal proceeding, and with little more than a brief interview.
Most Saudis who left were not interviewed at all by the FBI. In fact, of the 142 Saudis on these flights, only 30 were interviewed. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Threats and Responses in 2001, Staff Statement No. 10, The Saudi Flights, p. 12
The film puts this in perspective. Imagine President Clinton facilitating the exit of members of the McVeigh family out of the country following the Oklahoma City bombing. Or compare this treatment to the hundreds of people detained following the 9/11 attacks who were held without charges for months on end, who had no relationship to Osama bin Laden.
The question, which has never been answered, is what was the rush in getting these individuals out of the country? As Cloonan says, ""If I had to inconvenience a member of the bin Laden family with a subpoena or a Grand Jury, do you think I'd lose any sleep over it? Not for a minute Mike... [Y]ou got a lawyer? Fine. Counselor? Fine. Mr. Bin Laden, this is why I'm asking you, it's not because I think that you're anything. I just want to ask you the questions that I would anybody."
4. ADDITIONAL FACTS NOT REPORTED IN FAHRENHEIT 9/11 THAT SUPPORT THE FILM'S THESIS
First, the US Customs and Border Protection document released by the Department of Homeland Security under the FOIA, Feb 24, 2004 lists 162 Saudi Nationals who flew out of the country between 9.11.2001 and 9.15.2001 .
Second, even though Fahrenheit does not make the allegation, on June 9, 2004, news reports confirmed that, "Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left. The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky. The Saudis then took another flight out of the country."
Moreover, "For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose... The terrorism panel, better known as the 9/11 Commission, said in April that it knew of six chartered flights with 142 people aboard, mostly Saudis, that left the United States between Sept. 14 and 24, 2001. But it has said nothing about the Tampa flight… The 9/11 Commission, which has said the flights out of the United States were handled appropriately by the FBI, appears concerned with the handling of the Tampa flight.
"Most of the aircraft allowed to fly in U.S. airspace on Sept. 13 were empty
airliners being ferried from the airports where they made quick landings on
Sept. 11. The reopening of the airspace included paid charter flights, but
not private, nonrevenue flights."
Jean Heller, TIA now verifies flight of Saudis; The government has long denied
that two days after the 9/11 attacks, the three were allowed to fly.
St. Petersburg Times, June 9, 2004
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