The Justice Department Friday made public four new, heavily censored documents confirming that by 2002 the FBI had found “many connections” between 9/11 terrorist figures and the Florida family of “an allegedly wealthy international businessman” with ties to the Saudi Royal family.
“On or about 8/27/01 his family fled their house in Sarasota leaving behind valuable items in a manner indicating they left quickly without prior preparation,” says an FBI “case narrative” written on April 16, 2002.
The name of the international businessman, Esam Ghazzawi, is blanked out in the narrative. Ghazzawi’s name, however, is included on another page — an FBI form that accompanied a letter acquired by FBI agents in Tampa as “evidence” in July 2002. Details about the letter were not released.
The release of Ghazzawi’s name is the first time the government has confirmed Ghazzawi’s involvement in the FBI investigation that lasted until at least 2004, yet was never disclosed to the 9/11 Commission or congressional investigators.
Ghazzawi, advisor to a senior Saudi prince, owned the upscale south Sarasota home where his daughter, Anoud, and her husband, Abdulaziz al-Hijji lived prior to 9/11. Law enforcement sources have said that after 9/11 investigators found evidence — telephone records and photographs of license tags and security gate log books — showing that hijack pilot Mohamed Atta, former Broward resident and fugitive al Qaeda leader Adnan Shukrijumah and other terror suspects had visited the home. The home is about 10 miles from the Venice airport, where Atta and the two other hijack pilots trained.
The four pages were released amid ongoing Freedom of Information litigation brought by BrowardBulldog.org after the FBI declined to release any records about the matter.
In April, Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch ordered the FBI to conduct a thorough search of its records to identify documents about the once-secret probe. The judge said the Justice Department had failed to convince him that the FBI’s prior searches had been adequate.
With Friday’s action, a total of 39 pages have been released since the lawsuit was filed in September 2012. That includes four pages that were censored in their entirety.
The FBI withheld certain information from the just-released documents, saying disclosure would constitute “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” or reveal techniques and procedures of law enforcement.
The four pages released Friday were all declassified shortly before their release.
FBI records chief David M. Hardy said in a declaration under oath that the bureau has processed the Tampa field office’s complete “sub file” on 9/11 and is in the process of turning it over to the judge as ordered. Hardy said the file consists of 80,266 pages, divided into 411 “individual documents sections,” burned onto three CDs in a searchable format.
The documents, and parallel hard copies, were provided for Judge Zloch’s private inspection. He will then decide whether any of those documents are releasable under the Freedom of Information Act.