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Thread: Link To 9/11 Hijackers Found In Sarasota

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    Link To 9/11 Hijackers Found In Sarasota

    Link to 9/11 hijackers found in Sarasota
    FBI found ties between hijackers and Saudis in Sarasota but never revealed the findings

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/0...-found-in.html

    By Anthony Summers and Dan Christensen
    Special to The Miami Herald

    Just two weeks before the 9/11 hijackers slammed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, members of a Saudi family abruptly vacated their luxury home near Sarasota, leaving a brand new car in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food, fruit on the counter — and an open safe in a master bedroom.

    In the weeks to follow, law enforcement agents not only discovered the home was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers, but phone calls were linked between the home and those who carried out the death flights — including leader Mohamed Atta — in discoveries never before revealed to the public.

    Ten years after the deadliest attack of terrorism on U.S. soil, new information has emerged that shows the FBI found troubling ties between the hijackers and residents in the upscale community in southwest Florida, but the investigation wasn’t reported to Congress or mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report.

    Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who co-chaired the congressional Joint Inquiry into the attacks, said he should have been told about the findings, saying it “opens the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11. ... No information relative to the named people in Sarasota was disclosed.”

    The U.S. Justice Department, the lead agency that investigated the attacks, refused to comment, saying it will discuss only information already released.

    The Saudi residents then living at the stylish home, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and his wife Anoud, could not be reached, nor could the then-owner of the house, Esam Ghazzawi, who is Anoud’s father. The house was sold in 2003, records show.

    For Graham, the connections between the hijackers and residents raise questions about whether other Saudi nationals in Florida knew of the impending attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

    The FBI investigation began the month after 9/11 when Larry Berberich, senior administrator and security officer of the gated community known as Prestancia, reported a bizarre event that took place two weeks before the hijackings of four passenger jets that originated in Boston, Newark and Washington.

    The couple, living with their small children at the three-bedroom home at 4224 Escondito Circle, had left in a hurry in a white van, probably on Aug. 30.

    They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway.

    After 9/11, Berberich said he had “a gut feeling” the people at the home may have had something to do with the attacks, prompting the FBI’s probe that would eventually link the hijackers to the house.

    As an advisor to the Sarasota County sheriff — Berberich was with the group that received President Bush during his aborted visit to a Sarasota school on the morning of 9/11 — he alerted sheriff’s deputies. Patrick Gallagher, one of the Saudis’ neighbors, had become suspicious even earlier, and had fired off an email to the FBI on the day of the attacks.

    Gallagher said law enforcement officers arrived and began an investigation, with agents swarming “all over the place, in their blue jackets,” he recalled.

    Jone Weist, president of the group that managed Prestancia, confirmed the arrival of the FBI, which requested copies of the Saudis’ financial transactions involving the house.

    Berberich and a senior counterterrorism agent said they were able to get into the abandoned house, ultimately finding “there was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms … all the toiletries still in place … all their clothes hanging in the closet … opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house … the pool running, with toys in it.”

    “The beds were made … fruit on the counter … the refrigerator full of food. … It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie ... [But] the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. ... A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they’d taken [another] computer and left the cord.”

    The counterterrorism officer, who requested his name not be disclosed, said agents went on to make troubling discoveries: Phone records and the Prestancia gate records linked the house on Escondito Circle to the hijackers.

    In addition, three of the four future hijackers had lived in Venice — just 10 miles from the house — for much of the year before 9/11. Atta, the leader, and his companion Marwan al-Shehhi, had been learning to fly small airplanes at Huffman Aviation, a flight school on the edge of the runway at Venice Municipal Airport.

    A block away, at Florida Flight Training, accomplice Ziad Jarrah was also taking flying lessons. All three obtained their pilot licenses and afterwards, in the months that led to 9/11, spent much of their time traveling the state, including stints in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach, among other areas.

    The counterterrorism agent said records of incoming and outgoing calls made at the Escondito house were obtained from the phone company under subpoena.

    Agents were able to conduct a link analysis, a system of tracking calls based on dates, times and length of conversations — finding the Escondito calls dating back more than a year, “lined up with the known suspects.”

    The links were not only to Atta and his hijack pilots, the agent said, but to 11 other terrorist suspects, including Walid al-Shehhri, one of the men who flew with Atta on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center.

    Another was Adnan Shukrijumah, a former Miramar resident identified as having been with Atta in the spring of 2001. Shukrijumah is still at large and is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

    But it was the gate records at the Prestancia development that produced the most telltale information.

    People who arrived by car had to give their names and the address they were visiting. Gate staff would sometimes ask to see a driver’s license and note the name, Berberich said. License plates were photographed.

    Atta is known to have used variations of his name, but the license plate of the car he owned was on record.

    The vehicle and name information on Atta and Jarrah fit that of drivers entering Prestancia on their way to visit the home at 4224 Escondito Circle, said Berberich and the counterterrorism officer.

    Sarasota County property records identify the owners of the house at the time as Ghazzawi and his American-born wife Deborah, both with a post office box in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and the capital, Riyadh.

    Ghazzawi was described as a middle-aged financier and interior designer, the owner of many properties, including several in the United States, said the counterterrorism agent.

    While Ghazzawi visited the house, the people living there were his daughter Anoud and her husband al-Hiijjii, who appeared to be in his 30s and once identified himself as a college student, said Berberich, who met the son-in-law.

    The couple’s sudden departure two weeks before 9/11 was tracked in detail by the FBI after the attacks, the agent said.

    First, they traveled to a Ghazzawi property in Arlington, Va., then — with Esam Ghazzawi — via Dulles airport and London’s Heathrow, to Riyadh.

    The counterterrorism agent said Ghazzawi and al-Hiijjii had been on a watch list at the FBI and that a U.S. agency tracking terrorist funds was interested in both men even before 9/11.

    “464 was Ghazzawi’s number,” the officer said. “I don’t remember the other man’s number.”

    About a year after the family abandoned the home, the FBI made an attempt to lure the owner back.

    Scott McKay, a Sarasota lawyer for the Prestancia homeowners’ association in its claim for unpaid dues, said the FBI tried to get him to bring the Saudis back for the transaction.

    McKay said he tried to get the Ghazzawis to sign the necessary documents in person, but the ploy failed because the documents could legally be signed elsewhere using a notary. Records show Ghazzawi’s signature was notarized by the vice consul of the U.S. embassy in Lebanon in September 2003. Deborah Ghazzawi’s signature was notarized in Riverside County, Calif.

    During an interview on Sunday, Graham said he was surprised he wasn’t told about the probe when he was co-chair of Congress’ Joint Inquiry into 9/11 — even though he was especially alert to terrorist information relating to Florida.

    “At the beginning of the investigation,” he said, “each of the intelligence agencies, including the FBI, was asked to provide all information that agency possessed in relation to 9/11.”

    The fact that the FBI did not tell the Inquiry about the Florida discoveries, Graham says, is similar to the agency’s failure to provide information linking members of the 9/11 terrorist team to other Saudis in California until congressional investigators discovered it themselves.

    The Inquiry did nevertheless accumulate a “very large” file on the hijackers in the United States, and later turned it over to the 9/11 Commission. “They did very little with it,” Graham said, “and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes. … I never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that.”

    The final 28-page section of the Inquiry’s report, which deals with “sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers,” was entirely blanked out. It was kept secret from the public on the orders of former President George W. Bush and is still withheld to this day, Graham said.

    This in spite of the fact that Graham and his Republican counterpart, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, both concluded the release of the pages would not endanger national security.

    The grounds for suppressing the material, Graham believes, were “protection of the Saudis from embarrassment, protection of the administration from political embarrassment … some of the unknowns, some of the secrets of 9/11.”

    Anthony Summers is co-author of The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 & Osama bin Laden. Dan Christensen is the editor of the Broward Bulldog, a not-for-profit online only newspaper created to provide local reporting in the public interest. www.BrowardBulldog.org
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Bob Graham Wants 9/11 Inquiry Reopened

    http://www.wusf.usf.edu/news/2011/09...quiry_reopened

    By Steve Newborn
    9/9/2011

    TAMPA (2011-9-9) - New information is surfacing that a Saudi family in Sarasota is linked to the masterminds of the 9/11 terror attack. Even though the FBI investigated the connection after the family fled, Congressional investigators were never notified. And that has former Sen. Bob Graham calling for a new investigation.

    The information first surfaced in a story in the Broward Bulldog website. It says two of the 9/11 hijackers - including mastermind Mohammed Atta - appear to have visited the home of a Saudi family in Sarasota. And phone records link people in the house to several terrorism suspects.

    Neighbors of the Saudis in the gated Prestancia community say the family disappeared a week before 9/11. They left a new car in the driveway and food in the refrigerator. And the FBI investigated the connection between the family and the 9/11 hijackers who trained to fly in nearby Venice.

    But information about the investigation was apparently withheld. Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham headed Congress' 9/11 inquiry, and says he believes the Bush Administration purposely withheld the information from Congress.

    "It tends to reaffirm the fundamental theory that the 19 hijackers were not acting alone," says Graham. "That they could have only completed such a complicated assignment as planning, practicing and executing a very sophisticated plot if they had assistance from people who spoke the English language, who were familiar with the culture of the United States and to provide them with protection, anonymity and support."

    Graham says he will personally lobby President Obama to reopen the investigation into the attacks.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Mystery surrounds the ritzy Florida home linked to 9/11 terrorists - and why the FBI didn't tell Congressional committee about it

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...report-it.html

    It's a sprawling piece of real estate with a dark secret: It may have been a haven for bloodthirsty terrorists.

    The sudden disappearance of the home’s Saudi residents before September 11 prompted calls to authorities, who found links to those who orchestrated the horrific attacks of that morning.

    Days before the tenth anniversary of the worst terror strike on American soil, new light is being shed on the home, and its ties to the tragedy.
    House or terror haven? This home, located at 4224 Escondito Circle in Sarasota, Florida, was probed by the FBI and was found to have several ties to the 9/11 hijackers

    House or haven? This home, located at 4224 Escondito Circle in Sarasota, Florida, was probed by the FBI and was found to have several ties to the 9/11 hijackers

    The Miami Herald reported the home was owned at the time by Esam Ghazzawi, a financier and interior designer, and his wife Deborah.

    Also living at the opulent house was Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and his wife Anoud, Ghazzawi’s daughter. The home was sold in 2003.

    Days before September 11, 2001, the Saudi family and their small children hurriedly vacated in a white van, leaving brand new cars in the garage, a fridge full of food and closets filled with clothes.

    Their sudden departure irked Larry Berberich, senior administrator and security officer of the gated community, who reported the exodus.

    Ironically, Mr Berberich, an advisor to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, was with the group that received President Bush during his visit to the school where he was famously told of the terror attacks on the morning of September 11.

    That same morning, neighbour Patrick Gallagher emailed the FBI to report what he felt was suspicious behaviour by the family.

    In an investigation that began weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI reportedly found several links to the hijackers who carried them out.

    When authorities pulled the records of phone calls to and from the home, they made a shocking discovery.

    The numbers belonged to more than a dozen suspected terrorists, including the 9/11 hijackers.

    A check on the logs of those entering the gated community prior to the attacks found a car belonging to Mohammed Atta, who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11.

    Another car entering was linked to Ziad Samir Jarrah, a hijacker of United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    Jarrah received flight training about a block away from the house at the Florida Flight Training, the Herald reported.

    Another phone number linked to the home was that of Adnan Shukrijumah, who is believed to have been with Atta in the spring of 2001.

    Shukrijumah, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, remains on the loose.

    The FBI was able to trace Ghazzawi's route back to Riyadh, with a stopover at a property he owned in Arlington, Virginia, before boarding a flight to Heathrow Airport on the way to Saudi Arabia.

    An unnamed counterterrorism agent told the paper that Ghazzawi and al-Hiijjii were on an FBI watch list and a U.S. agency tracking terrorist funds was interested in both men even before 9/11.

    Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired the inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, said he was surprised he wasn’t told about the probe of the Escondito Circle home at the time - even though he was especially alert to information pertaining to Florida.

    Despite that, the inquiry was able to gather a massive file on the hijackers in the United States, and it was turned it over to the 9/11 Commission.

    But Sen Graham said the Commission 'did very little with it, and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes.

    'I never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that.'
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    FBI investigated another Sarasota link to 9/11

    http://www.heraldtribune.com/article...a-link-to-9-11

    By Zac Anderson & Robert Eckhart
    Published: Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 11:10 p.m.
    Last Modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 11:10 p.m.

    Newly revealed details from an FBI investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks link a Saudi family living in an upscale Sarasota neighborhood to the hijackers, who made multiple visits to the Sarasota home before 9/11.

    The Saudi family appear to have fled their home in the gated Palmer Ranch community of Prestancia two weeks before Sept. 11, raising suspicions about whether they had knowledge of the impending attacks. The family left clothes hanging in closets, food in the refrigerator, toys floating in the pool and three cars in the driveway and garage.

    Details of the investigation were uncovered by author Anthony Summers and Dan Christensen, editor of Browardbulldog.org. Their story, which relied largely on an unnamed counterterrorism agent as well as former Prestancia security guard Larry Berberich, was published Thursday on Christensen's website and in the Miami Herald.

    The story documents yet another potential connection between Southwest Florida and the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Three of the four men who piloted planes on Sept. 11 attended flight schools in Venice and lived there until shortly before the attacks. Two of them, Sept. 11 mastermind Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah, were found to have visited the Saudi family in Prestancia based on photos of their license plates taken at the security gate and information the men gave gate guards.

    Neighbors did not grow suspicious of the Saudi family until after Sept. 11, when their abrupt departure days earlier raised questions.

    At least three Sarasota residents, including a neighbor, a security guard and a real estate agent, called the FBI to report the Saudi family's odd behavior. Counterterrorism experts later pieced together the family's connection to the hijackers, but by then the Saudis had returned to their home country.

    In a Thursday interview with the Herald Tribune, a former neighbor and close friend of the Saudi family who visited their house nearly every day for a few years in the mid-90s said she always wondered what had become of her old friends.

    Sarasota High School graduate Carla DiBello, 27, said she became close with Anoud al-Hiijjii, the young Saudi mother.

    Anoud, who was only 18 or 19 at the time, treated DiBello like a younger sister and DiBello enjoyed playing with the family's young twins, Esam and Hamsa.

    DiBello and Anoud went to movies together, shopped at the mall and took trips to Busch Gardens.

    DiBello said Anoud was a heavyset, pious woman who prayed multiple times a day. But in many ways she and her husband, Abdulazzi, were very Westernized. She sported a 10-carat, heart-shaped diamond ring. He liked Polo shirts and expensive jeans. They wore designer clothes, drove a Range Rover and a Lexus, loved American movies and decorated their home lavishly.

    Abdulazzi often walked next door to visit with DiBello's father, Tom, and drink liquor, something Anoud did not approve of.

    "Anoud would make him go pray and be more involved in their culture," Carla DiBello said.

    Tom DiBello, an insurance salesman who now lives near Fort Lauderdale, said Abdulazzi was affable and outgoing.

    DiBello got the impression that Abdulazzi, who at times said he was a business student but also talked about exporting furniture, was coasting on his wife's family money.

    Anoud's father, Esam Ghazzawi, is a well-known interior designer and financier in Saudi Arabia who owned multiple properties in the United States, including the Prestancia home. The family bragged that Ghazzawi had a close relationship with the Saudi royal family.

    Carlo DiBello said she met Ghazzawi at least four times and described him as "very eccentric." He enjoyed big family dinners and always had a large security detail.

    Once, DiBello was shopping with the family around the time that Ab Roller exercise gadgets became popular.

    Ghazzawi "ordered 40 or 50 of them at once and said he wanted them at all of his homes and offices around the world," DiBello said.

    Abdulazzi's easy manner did not raise suspicions, but Tom DiBello said in hindsight some of their conversations were odd.

    "He felt Americans came to their country to steal their oil and take their money," DiBello said. "He said he did not like Americans because of what we did to his country. He said, 'How would you like it if we came to your country and did that?' "

    The al-Hiijjii family did not socialize widely and did not belong to Prestancia's posh country club or take advantage of the world-class golf course, DiBello said.

    Carla DiBello, who now works in Los Angeles as a television producer for the show "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," said she lost touch with the family around 1999 after she entered high school and moved out of Prestancia.

    House for sale
    Sarasota real estate agent Louise Tessier may have been one of the last local residents to have contact with the al-Hiijjii family before they disappeared.

    Tessier sat down with the couple in their family room in May 2001 after they contacted her about selling the Prestancia home.

    Anoud told Tessier they wanted to sell the house because a brother was headed to college in Tampa.

    Tessier didn't ask too many follow-up questions.

    "We were never on a comfortable footing," she said. "You couldn't talk to them as easy as you could with other people."

    After the Sept. 11 attacks, Tessier got a tip that the family had abandoned their Prestancia home. She tried to contact them by phone and email. She remembers calling a phone number in Saudi Arabia but never getting through to the right people.

    When Tessier went to check out the house, she saw that the pool was green and a car was parked in the driveway.

    "There was stuff in the house that shouldn't have been left in the house," she said. "And I can't remember if I found food in the refrigerator or what but it was just like they had abandoned the whole thing."

    She went back to her office and called the FBI.

    "They knew who I meant," Tessier said. "Didn't have any problem getting that through to them. It made me feel like they knew what was going on."

    A few months later, Tessier said the FBI called her back and told her that the al-Hiijjiis were "cleared." The FBI said that she could go through with the sale, and that the federal government would not be seizing the house.

    But Tessier says she had had enough of the family.

    "I just shut down on the whole thing. I didn't want to have anything to do with it."

    What has become of the al-Hiijjii and Ghazzawi families since they fled the United States is unclear.

    The Justice Department, the lead agency that investigated the attacks, refused to comment, saying it would discuss only information already released.

    The al-Hiijjii and Ghazzawi families could not be reached for comment. The house was sold in 2003, records show.

    Inquiry kept secret
    The FBI investigation into the al-Hiijjii and Ghazzawi families was not reported to Congress or mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report.

    Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who cochaired the bipartisan congressional joint inquiry into the attacks, said he should have been told about the findings, saying it "opens the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11. . . . No information relative to the named people in Sarasota was disclosed."

    For Graham, who served as Florida's governor from 1979 to 1987, the connections between the hijackers and residents raise questions about whether other Saudi nationals in Florida might have known of the impending attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

    The FBI investigation began the month after 9/11 when Larry Berberich, senior administrator and security officer of Prestancia, reported that the couple, living with their small children at the three-bedroom home at 4224 Escondito Circle, had left in a hurry in a white van, probably on Aug. 30.

    They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway.

    As an adviser to the Sarasota County sheriff, Berberich was with the group that received President George W. Bush during his truncated visit to a Sarasota school on the morning of 9/11. He alerted sheriff's deputies.

    Patrick Gallagher, one of the Saudis' neighbors, had become suspicious even earlier, and had fired off an email to the FBI on the day of the attacks. Gallagher said law enforcement officers arrived and began an investigation, with agents swarming "all over the place, in their blue jackets," he recalled.

    Berberich and a senior counterterrorism agent said they were able to get into the abandoned house, ultimately finding "there was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms ... all the toiletries still in place ... all their clothes hanging in the closet ... TVs ... opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house ... the pool running, with toys in it."

    The counterterrorism officer, who requested that his name not be disclosed, said agents went on to make some troubling discoveries: Phone records and the Prestancia gate records linked the house on Escondito Circle to the hijackers.

    The links were not only to Atta and his hijack pilots, the agent said, but to 11 other terrorist suspects, including Walid al-Shehhri, one of the men who flew with Atta on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center.

    But it was the gate records at the Prestancia development that produced the most telltale information.

    People who arrived by car had to give their names and the home's address they were visiting. Gate staff would sometimes ask to see a driver's license and note the name, said Berberich.

    More importantly, he added, the license plates of cars pulling through the gate were photographed.

    Atta is known to have used variations of his name, but the license plate of the car he owned was on record.

    The vehicle and name information on Atta and Jarrah fit that of drivers entering Prestancia on their way to visit the home at Escondito Circle, said Berberich and the counterterrorism officer.

    County property records identify the owners of the house at the time as Ghazzawi and his American-born wife, Deborah, both with a P.O. box in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and another address in the capital, Riyadh.

    The sudden departure two weeks before 9/11 was tracked in detail by the FBI after the attacks, the counterterrorism agent said. First they traveled to a Ghazzawi property in Arlington, Va., then — with Esam Ghazzawi — to Riyadh by way of Dulles and Heathrow airports.

    The counterterrorism agent said that Ghazzawi and al-Hiijjii had been on a watch list at the FBI, and that a U.S. agency involved in tracking terrorist funds was interested in both men even before 9/11.

    About a year after the family vacated the home, the FBI made an attempt to lure the owner back. Scott McKay, a Sarasota lawyer for the Prestancia homeowners' association in its claim for unpaid dues on the property, said the FBI tried to get him to bring the Saudis back for the transaction.

    "They didn't say you must do this. It was more like, 'But we'd really, really like you to make this happen,'" said McKay said.

    McKay said he tried to get the Ghazzawis to sign the necessary documents in person, but the ploy failed because the documents could legally be signed elsewhere using a notary. Records show Ghazzawi's signature was notarized by the vice consul of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in September 2003. Deborah Ghazzawi's signature was notarized in Riverside County, Calif.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Investigate 9/11 link in Sarasota, Fla. lawmaker says

    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/09/13/390...-sarasota.html

    By Dan Christensen
    The Miami Herald

    Published: Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2011 - 4:06 am
    Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2011 - 5:02 am

    A decade after the FBI found ties between a Saudi family living quietly near Sarasota and the 9/11 hijackers, a Florida Democratic congresswoman is calling on the House Intelligence Committee to investigate whether agents revealed their findings to Congress.

    Kathy Castor said she was troubled over reports that federal agents discovered a luxury home where the family was living was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers and phone calls were linked between the home and the terrorists, but Congress was not told of the discovery.

    The family abruptly left the home less than two weeks before the attacks, leaving a new car in the driveway, a refrigerator stuffed with food, toys in the pool — and an open safe in the master bedroom, according to administrators at the development.

    “One of the great criticisms of the pre-9/11 intelligence operations,” Castor wrote in her letter on Monday to the committee’s two senior members, “was the lack of cooperation and information sharing among agencies.”

    The dispute over what Congress knew about the case emerged last week after The Miami Herald reported about the little known FBI investigation at the upscale development on Florida’s west coast..

    Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who chaired the congressional Joint Inquiry into the deadly hijackings, said he was never told about the case, while the FBI, in a statement released Friday, said the agency did indeed tell Congress and the 911 Commission.

    “With respect to recent reports about the Sarasota area, there is no new information related to the 9/11 hijackers,’’ said the FBI, adding the case was found not to be related to the 9/11 events. “All of the documentation pertaining to the 9/11 investigation was made available to the 9/11 Commission and the [joint inquiry].”

    But Graham says questions still abound over the bizarre events that occurred at the three-bedroom home owned by Saudi financier Esam Ghazzawi, whose daughter and son-in-law and two young children resided there.

    Graham disputed the FBI’s statement that the agency informed the Congress, saying it was “BS” that he and congressional investigators were told about the Sarasota events.

    In an appearance Monday on MSNBC, Graham said he spoke with President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism advisor.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    FBI probe into Sarasota home's link to 9/11 hijackers wasn't reported to Congress, commission

    http://www.heraldonline.com/2011/09/...ota-homes.html

    Anthony Summers and Dan Christensen - McClatchy Newspapers
    9/13/2011

    MIAMI — Just two weeks before the 9/11 hijackers slammed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, members of a Saudi family abruptly vacated their luxury home near Sarasota, Fla., leaving a brand new car in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food, fruit on the counter — and an open safe in a master bedroom.

    In the weeks to follow, law enforcement agents not only discovered the home was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers, but also phone calls were linked between the home and those who carried out the death flights — including leader Mohamed Atta — in discoveries never before revealed to the public.

    Ten years after the deadliest attack of terrorism on U.S. soil, new information has emerged that shows the FBI found troubling ties between the hijackers and residents in the upscale community in southwest Florida, but the investigation wasn't reported to Congress or mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report.

    Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who co-chaired the congressional Joint Inquiry into the attacks, said he should have been told about the findings, saying it "opens the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11. ... No information relative to the named people in Sarasota was disclosed."

    The U.S. Justice Department, the lead agency that investigated the attacks, refused to comment, saying it will discuss only information already released.

    The Saudi residents then living at the stylish home, Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and his wife, Anoud, could not be reached, nor could the then-owner of the house, Esam Ghazzawi, who is Anoud's father. The house was sold in 2003, records show.

    For Graham, the connections between the hijackers and residents raise questions about whether other Saudi nationals in Florida knew of the impending attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

    The FBI investigation began the month after 9/11 when Larry Berberich, senior administrator and security officer of the gated community known as Prestancia, reported a bizarre event that took place two weeks before the hijackings of four passenger jets that originated in Boston, Newark and Washington.

    The couple, living with their small children at the three-bedroom house at 4224 Escondito Circle, had left in a hurry in a white van, probably on Aug. 30.

    They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, in the garage and driveway.

    After 9/11, Berberich said he had "a gut feeling" the people at the home may have had something to do with the attacks, prompting the FBI's probe that would eventually link the hijackers to the house.

    As an adviser to the Sarasota County sheriff — Berberich was with the group that received President George W. Bush during his visit to a Sarasota school on the morning of 9/11 — he alerted sheriff's deputies. Patrick Gallagher, one of the Saudis' neighbors, had become suspicious even earlier, and had fired off an email to the FBI on the day of the attacks.

    Gallagher said law enforcement officers arrived and began an investigation, with agents swarming "all over the place, in their blue jackets," he recalled.

    Jone Weist, president of the group that managed Prestancia, confirmed the arrival of the FBI, which requested copies of the Saudis' financial transactions involving the house.

    Berberich and a senior counterterrorism agent said they were able to get into the abandoned house, ultimately finding "there was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms ... all the toiletries still in place ... all their clothes hanging in the closet ... TVs ... opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house ... the pool running, with toys in it."

    "The beds were made ... fruit on the counter ... the refrigerator full of food. ... It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie. ... (But) the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. ... A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they'd taken (another) computer and left the cord."

    In addition, three of the four future hijackers had lived in Venice — just 10 miles from the house — for much of the year before 9/11. Atta, the leader, and his companion Marwan al-Shehhi, had been learning to fly small airplanes at Huffman Aviation, a flight school on the edge of the runway at Venice Municipal Airport.

    A block away, at Florida Flight Training, accomplice Ziad Jarrah was also taking flying lessons. All three obtained their pilot licenses and afterwards, in the months that led to 9/11, spent much of their time traveling the state, including stints in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach, among other areas.

    The counterterrorism agent said records of incoming and outgoing calls made at the Escondito house were obtained from the phone company under subpoena.

    Agents were able to conduct a link analysis, a system of tracking calls based on dates, times and length of conversations _ finding the Escondito calls dating back more than a year, "lined up with the known suspects."

    The links were not just to Atta and his hijack pilots, the agent said, but to 11 other terrorist suspects, including Walid al-Shehhri, one of the men who flew with Atta on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center.

    Another was Adnan Shukrijumah, a former Miramar, Fla., resident identified as having been with Atta in the spring of 2001. Shukrijumah is still at large and is on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

    But it was the gate records at the Prestancia development that produced the most telltale information. People who arrived by car had to give their names and the home's address they were visiting. Gate staff would sometimes ask to see a driver's license and note the name, Berberich said. More importantly, he added, the license plates of cars pulling through the gate were photographed.

    Atta is known to have used variations of his name, but the license plate of the car he owned was on record.

    The vehicle and name information on Atta and Jarrah fit that of drivers entering Prestancia on their way to visit the home at 4224 Escondito Circle, said Berberich and the counterterrorism officer.

    Sarasota County property records identify the owners of the house at the time as Ghazzawi and his American-born wife, Deborah, both with a post office box in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, and the capital, Riyadh.

    Ghazzawi was described as a middle-aged financier and interior designer, the owner of many properties, including several in the United States, said the counterterrorism agent.

    While Ghazzawi visited the house, the people living there were his daughter Anoud and her husband, al-Hiijjii, who appeared to be in his 30s and once identified himself as a college student, said Berberich, who met the son-in-law.

    The couple's sudden departure two weeks before 9/11 was tracked in detail by the FBI after the attacks, the counterterrorism agent said.

    First, they traveled to a Ghazzawi property in Arlington, Va., then — with Esam Ghazzawi — via Dulles airport and London's Heathrow, to Riyadh.

    The counterterrorism agent said Ghazzawi and al-Hiijjii had been on a watch list at the FBI and that a U.S. agency involved in tracking terrorist funds was interested in both men even before 9/11.

    "464 was Ghazzawi's number," the officer said. "I don't remember the other man's number."

    About a year after the family abandoned the home, the FBI made an attempt to lure the owner back. Scott McKay, a Sarasota lawyer for the Prestancia homeowners association in its claim for unpaid dues on the property, said the FBI tried to get him to bring the Saudis back for the transaction. "They didn't say you must do this. It was more like, 'But we'd really, really like you to make this happen,' " McKay said.

    McKay said he tried to get the Ghazzawis to sign the necessary documents in person, but the ploy failed because the documents could legally be signed elsewhere using a notary. Records show Ghazzawi's signature was notarized by the vice consul of the U.S. embassy in Lebanon in September 2003. Deborah Ghazzawi's signature was notarized in Riverside County, Calif.

    "At the beginning of the investigation," he said, "each of the intelligence agencies, including the FBI, was asked to provide all information that agency possessed in relation to 9/11."

    The fact that the FBI did not tell the Inquiry about the Florida discoveries, Graham says, is similar to the agency's failure to provide information linking members of the 9/11 terrorist team to other Saudis in California until congressional investigators discovered it themselves.

    The Inquiry did nevertheless accumulate a "very large" file on the hijackers in the United States, and later turned it over to the 9/11 Commission. "They did very little with it," Graham said, "and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes. ... I never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that."

    The final 28-page section of the Inquiry's report, which deals with "sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers," was entirely blanked out. It was kept secret from the public on the orders of former President George W. Bush and is still withheld to this day, Graham said.

    This in spite of the fact that Graham and his Republican counterpart, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, both concluded the release of the pages would not endanger national security.

    The grounds for suppressing the material, Graham believes, were "protection of the Saudis from embarrassment, protection of the administration from political embarrassment ... some of the unknowns, some of the secrets of 9/11."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  7. #7
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    Former September 11 probe chair calls for reopening inquiry

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/...78B6DH20110912

    9/13/2011

    (Reuters) - The former co-chair of a Congressional inquiry after the September 11, 2001 attacks called on the U.S. government to reopen its investigation following a news report linking the hijackers to a Saudi Arabian couple who lived in Florida.

    Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham said he has no reason to doubt the news report, which said the Saudi Arabian couple abruptly abandoned their luxury home in Sarasota two weeks before the attacks, leaving behind a full refrigerator, clothes, furnishings and a new car in the driveway.

    The report was published by BrowardBulldog.org., a nonprofit Internet news site and was simultaneously published on the news website of the Miami Herald.

    If true, it reveals another Saudi terrorism connection that was never disclosed by the FBI to the public or to the 2002 joint Congressional intelligence committee investigating the attacks, said Graham, who was co-chair of the committee.

    The FBI office in Tampa issued a statement on Monday saying the Sarasota case was one of many leads that "were resolved and determined not to be related to any threat nor connected to the 9/11 plot."

    Graham called the Sarasota case "eerily similar" to the FBI's failure to tell the intelligence committee about a former Saudi civil servant, Omar al-Bayoumi, who supported two hijackers while they were living in San Diego. Graham said an investigator for his committee independently unearthed the information about al-Bayoumi.

    "Why did the U.S. government go to such lengths to cover up the Saudi involvement?" Graham said.

    The former Democratic senator from Florida has long been critical of the administration of former President George W. Bush for refusing to release 28 pages of the intelligence committee's report, which allegedly included information about Saudi financial support of terrorists.

    Information about the Saudi couple in Sarasota was reported by Anthony Summers, an independent journalist and co-author of The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, and Dan Christensen, editor of the BrowardBulldog.org.

    Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, his wife Anoud and their small children resided in a home owned by Anoud's father, Esam Ghazzawi, in the gated Sarasota subdivision called Prestancia, according to the report.

    The report said the FBI learned of the couple from a suspicious neighbor on the day of the attacks.

    According to the report, the FBI connected the couple to more than a dozen terrorists through telephone records and through their car license tags and drivers licenses as they passed through the subdivision's security gate.

    Among the terrorists who visited the home or called the couple was 9/11 leader Mohamed Atta, the report said.

    The report was based on quotes from an unnamed counterterrorism official, a neighbor, subdivision administrators, the security guard and the subdivision lawyer, who said the FBI tried to get him to lure the homeowner back to the U.S.

    According to the report, the Sarasota couple returned to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with Anoud's father after abandoning their home.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  8. #8
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    Saudi couple who left country quickly not a threat: FBI

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/saudi-c...at-fbi/1191192

    By Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent
    In Print: Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    To neighbors in their gated community in Sarasota, the abrupt, seemingly permanent departure of a young Saudi couple shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks seemed suspicious enough to warrant calls and e-mails to the FBI.

    But Abdulaziz al-Hijji had just graduated from the University of South Florida and was soon to take a job with Saudi Arabia's huge oil company. His wife, Anoud, returned in 2003 to arrange for the sale of their house.

    The circumstances under which the al-Hijjis left Sarasota in early September 2001 have prompted speculation they might have had ties to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers. A Fort Lauderdale website first reported last week that phone and gate records linked the al-Hijjis' home to hijackers including Mohamed Atta.

    Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired the congressional inquiry into the attacks, said Friday that the FBI did not tell him about the purported links. He called for a new investigation into the extent of the Saudi role in the hijackings.

    On Monday, however, the FBI said it had investigated all leads about the attacks, including the Sarasota case, and turned over all information to Graham's committee and the 9/11 Commission. The commission's executive director, Philip D. Zelikow, said, "We had very good access to FBI reports and we did not think the FBI was holding back stuff.''

    A fuller picture is emerging of the al-Hijjis in Sarasota, where they married in 1995 when he was 22 and she was 17. They moved into a home owned by Anoud's parents in the upscale Prestancia community.

    Property manager Jone Weist said she quickly had contact with the couple because they failed to keep up the lawn and pay their homeowners association fees.

    Anoud, who spoke fluent English, alternated between Western dress and the black abaya and head scarf of Saudi women. At first she stayed home with the couple's twins, then joined her husband in studying at USF in Tampa, Weist said.

    "She was very proud to be able to say she was finally going to college and taking design courses so she could work with her father'' — Essam Ghazzawi, a noted Saudi designer of luxury properties, Weist said.

    On Labor Day weekend, 2001, neighbors were surprised to see huge piles of trash in front of the couple's home. The family also left three vehicles.

    A few weeks after the al-Hijjis' departure, FBI and Sarasota County deputies swarmed the house and found dirty diapers along with personal belongings. Weist said that Larry Berberich, then president of the homeowners association and an adviser to the Sheriff's Office, told her that agents took a few computers and an answering machine.

    Although some neighbors said they heard that the couple were never coming back, Anoud al-Hijji and her mother-in-law returned in mid 2003 after paying the delinquent homeowners association fees, Weist said. The house sold that September.

    The Ghazzawis and al-Hijjis could not be reached for comment. On Linked In, a social networking site, a person identifying himself as Abdulaziz al-Hijji said he works as a career counselor for Saudi Aramco, the Saudi oil company. He lists his education as "University of South Florida.'' The school confirmed Monday that al-Hijji graduated in August 2001.

    The possible ties between the couple and some of the hijackers were first reported by BrowardBulldog.org, an investigative website that broke the Sarasota story with Irish journalist Anthony Summers.

    The story was based in part on information from Berberich. It quoted an unidentified counterterrorism officer who said agents found that phone records and the Prestancia gate records linked the house to the hijackers.

    Berberich did not return calls from the St. Petersburg Times. Asked about the comments made by him and the anonymous officer, the FBI issued a statement:

    "With respect to recent reports about the Sarasota area, there is no new information related to the 9/11 hijackers. During the course of the 9/11 investigation, the FBI followed up on numerous leads and tips . . . most of which, including this one, were resolved and determined not to be related to any threat nor connected to the 9/11 plot. All of the documentation pertaining to the 9/11 investigation was made available to the 9/11 Commission" and the congressional committee.

    Graham could not be reached for comment Monday.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  9. #9
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    Saudi couple in Fla. part of 9/11? FBI says no, others raise questions

    http://openchannel.msnbc.msn.com/_ne...aise-questions

    9/14/2011

    A news report about a Saudi family that disappeared from their home in Sarasota, Fla., just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks has brought an angry response from the co-chair of a congressional Sept. 11 committee.

    Bob Graham, who was a senator from Florida when he co-chaired the panel, tells msnbc tv he contacted President Barack Obama's terrorism adviser after hearing about the news report, which documented that the family had had contact with three of the 9/11 pilot hijackers.

    "I ... urged him to pursue an investigation of these matters, both in Sarasota and elsewhere ... and then hopefully release that information to the American people," Graham said Monday on The Dylan Ratigan Show, suggesting that other Saudi families in the U.S. might have also had contact with the terrorists, most of whom were Saudi.

    Reuters reported that the FBI office in Tampa issued a statement Monday saying the Sarasota case was one of many leads that "were resolved and determined not to be related to any threat nor connected to the 9/11 plot."

    Graham said he had no reason to doubt the news report, which said the couple and their two children abruptly abandoned their luxury home, leaving behind a full refrigerator, clothes, furnishings and a new car in the driveway.

    The report was published by BrowardBulldog.org, a nonprofit news site, and was simultaneously published on the Miami Herald website.

    If true, it reveals another Saudi terrorism connection that the FBI never disclosed to the public or to the 2002 joint Congressional intelligence committee investigating the attacks, said Graham.

    Reuters quoted Graham as calling the Sarasota case "eerily similar" to the FBI's failure to tell the intelligence committee about a former Saudi civil servant, Omar al-Bayoumi, who supported two hijackers while they were living in San Diego.

    Graham said an investigator for his committee independently unearthed the information about al-Bayoumi.

    "Why did the U.S. government go to such lengths to cover up the Saudi involvement?" Graham said.

    The Democrat has long been critical of the administration of former President George W. Bush for refusing to release 28 pages of the intelligence committee's report, which allegedly included information about Saudi financial support of terrorists.

    Information about the Saudi couple in Sarasota was reported by Anthony Summers, an independent journalist and co-author of "The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden," and Dan Christensen, editor of the BrowardBulldog.org.

    Summers said on msnbc tv that a hushed-up inquiry found that "three of the (9/11) pilot hijackers had all been in touch with the Saudis in that house."

    Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii, his wife Anoud and their two children resided in a home owned by Anoud's father, Esam Ghazzawi, in the gated Sarasota subdivision called Prestancia, according to the report.

    The news report said the FBI learned of the couple from a suspicious neighbor on the day of the attacks.

    According to the report, the FBI connected the couple to more than a dozen terrorists through telephone records and through their car license tags and driver's licenses as they passed through the subdivision's security gate.

    Among the terrorists who visited the home or called the couple was 9/11 leader Mohamed Atta, the report said.

    The news report was based on information from an unnamed counterterrorism official, a neighbor, subdivision administrators, the subdivision security guard and the subdivision lawyer, who said the FBI tried to get him to lure the homeowner back to the United States.

    According to the report, the Sarasota couple returned to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with Anoud's father after abandoning their home.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Explore Saudi-Sarasota link

    http://www.heraldtribune.com/article...-Sarasota-link

    Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
    Last Modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 6:55 p.m.

    A statement by FBI Miami — discounting new reports of a possible 9/11 link to a Saudi family that once lived in Sarasota — is wholly unsatisfying.

    It points to a need to release information long withheld by the U.S. government.

    The FBI statement is at odds with a counterterrorism agent's revelation that the family had received phone calls from numbers linked to the 9/11 hijackers — some of whom took flight training in Venice.

    The FBI statement also conflicts with reports that the family was visited by people using a car licensed to Mohamed Atta — who crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center that terrible September morning in 2001.

    Last week's bombshell report about the former Sarasota family — heretofore undisclosed despite intense media coverage of the 9/11 investigation and the attacks' al-Qaida perpetrators — was written by independent reporters Anthony Summers and Dan Christensen. It was widely published and led to further reporting by the Herald-Tribune, which detailed the Saudi family's sudden abandonment of their home in the Prestancia subdivision less than two weeks before the 9/11 tragedy.

    Late Friday, the FBI confirmed that it had investigated the family but said the case was "determined not to be related to any threat nor connected to the 9/11 plot."

    The FBI said all documentation "pertaining to the 9/11 investigation" was given to the congressional Joint Inquiry that examined the 9/11 tragedy.

    But retired Sen. Bob Graham, co-leader of that joint inquiry, said Congress never received word of the Sarasota case.

    He sees the discrepancy as another in a long line of U.S. government actions that seem to downplay or hide the possibility that certain Saudis — living in the U.S. and connected to Saudi Arabia's government or its large royal family — may have aided the hijackers.

    Graham's frustration is not new. In 2003, he and other members of Congress fought the Bush administration's censoring of such details. He wants the Obama administration to make the information public.

    On Monday, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, whose 11th District includes part of Manatee County, urged the chairman of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to "investigate the matter and determine exactly what was investigated and reported to Congress in 2001 and during the years of inquiry thereafter regarding these individuals with ties to the 9/11 hijackers."

    This week, Graham told BrowardBulldog.org — which broke the story about the Saudi family in Sarasota — that deeper investigations should be mounted in all the U.S. communities where the 9/11 hijackers lived in the run-up to the attacks.

    We second Graham's call.

    Americans already know in all too painful detail that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden.

    Less publicized are reports suggesting that money and support for the hijackers came from people with ties to the Saudi government and/or monarchy. None were officially held accountable.

    Is that because of Saudi Arabia's enormous importance as an oil supplier and as a base for what passes for Middle East stability? Graham suspects so.

    Whatever the answer, the public deserves a true accounting.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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