FBI Responds to Vanity Fair Article on Saudi Flights
On March 28, 2005, Judicial Watch released documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtained under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and through ongoing litigation (Judicial Watch v. Department of Homeland Security & Federal Bureau of Investigation, No. 04-1643 (RWR)) that contain a declassified “Secret” FBI report, dated September 24, 2003, entitled: “Response to October 2003 Vanity Fair Article (Re: [Redacted] Family Departures After 9/11/2001).”
The report contains many redactions that the Justice Department claims were made in the privacy interests of the Saudi subjects identified in the report. It is not clear how the Justice Department concluded that the alleged privacy privileges of non-US persons trump the public’s interest in obtaining full information about the government’s investigative response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Additional redactions are claimed for law enforcement investigative purposes even though the report claims that “no information of investigative value” was learned from interviews of Bin Laden family members and Saudi royals.
New information detailing flights of Saudis out of the U.S. from Las Vegas, and Providence, RI are in the report. FBI procedures in processing the Saudi flights are also revealed. It is apparent from the report that Bin Laden family members and Saudi royals were subject to only cursory, pro forma questioning by the FBI. Experienced investigators suggest detailed counterterrorism interviews would have taken a minimum of two hours per passenger. There is no evidence offered that any such efforts were made by the FBI. The report is silent as to whether National Security Council staff member Richard Clarke or other White House officials approved any of the flights.