Documents show FBI helped Saudis depart after 9/11 attacks: New York Times
Sun Mar 27, 2:13 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The FBI (news - web sites) played an active role in arranging chartered flights for dozens of well-connected Saudi nationals -- including relatives of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) -- after the 9/11 terror attacks.
The New York Times reported that the documents show Federal Bureau of Investigation agents gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, while several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, citing newly-released US government records.
The Saudi families, in Los Angeles and Orlando, had requested the FBI escorts out of concern for their personal safety in the wake of the attacks.
The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department (news - web sites) by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, which provided copies to the Times.
FBI officials contacted by the daily reacted angrily to the allegation of preferential treatment for the Saudis.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, when queried by the Times about the airport escorts said "we'd do that for anybody if they felt they were threatened -- we wouldn't characterize that as special treatment."
The Saudis' chartered flights -- arranged in the days after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks when most aircraft were still grounded -- long have been a topic of allegations related to close family ties and associates of US President George W. Bush (news - web sites) and the Saudi royal family.
The charges received their most prominent airing last year by the filmmaker Michael Moore, in his "Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary.
White House officials have strongly denied any special treatment for the Saudis.