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.