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.
Anthony Summers and Bob Graham discuss the Sarasota mystery on The Dylan Ratigan Show.
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.