Judge Orders Release of Records That Might Tie Saudi Royals to 9/11

September 11, World Trade Center
September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center towers. Photo credit: Comer Zhao / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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A federal judge’s ruling has raised hopes that we may better understand any possible ties between Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and the 9/11 hijackers — the vast majority of whom were Saudi citizens.

Just ahead of the 18th anniversary of the attack, US District Judge William J. Zloch ruled that the FBI unlawfully withheld from journalists important parts of its own highly sensitive investigative report on the subject.

Earlier, the FBI had declined to release to the Florida Bulldog — a nonprofit news organization which first broke the news about the ruling — key sections from records of the bureau’s probe of a South Florida-based Saudi family that apparently had ties to many of the 9/11 hijackers.

According to a 2011 Bulldog report (and to a Sarasota Herald-Tribune story published the same day), Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 plot leader, had visited the family of Abdulaziz al-Hijji several times, and phone records documenting communication over more than a year connected them to Atta and 11 other terror suspects. (See below for details.)

Two weeks before the 9/11 attack, the al-Hijjis suddenly left the area, abandoning cars, furniture, clothing, food, and medicine, and leaving the door of a safe ajar. Soon after, they all — including Esam Ghazzawi, the father of al-Hijji’s wife and owner of the home — flew to Saudi Arabia.

Connecting the Florida Family to the Saudi Royal Family

Through its own investigation, WhoWhatWhy discovered that there is a direct link between Ghazzawi and the ruling Saudi royal family.

Ghazzawi served as director of Eirad Management Company, the UK division of Eirad Trading and Contracting Co. Ltd., which among other things holds the Saudi franchise for many multinational brands, including UPS.

Esam’s brother Mamdouh, whose name shows up on public records associated with family properties in the US, was the executive managing director of the parent firm, Eirad Holding Co. Ltd. Eirad has connections to the US government via contracts. In 2008, records show, the State Department paid Eirad $11,733 for rental of facilities, presumably in Saudi Arabia.

And the chairman of Eirad Holding Co. Ltd. — i.e., the Ghazzawi brothers’ boss — was Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

The prince is a prominent member of the ruling Saudi royal family. He is a great-grandson of King Abdul Aziz (commonly referred to as Ibn Saud), founder of modern Saudi Arabia, and grandson of the current king.

A 2009 article in the publication Arab News covering an Eirad awards ceremony for outstanding employees features quotes from Prince Sultan and Mamdouh Ghazzawi as, respectively, Chairman and Executive Managing Director.

A 2017 article in the UK’s Telegraph described Eirad as “the company which managed the [royal] family’s properties, fleet of cars and vast collection of artwork.”

The link between the Ghazzawis and high ranks of the Saudi establishment reopens questions about the Bush White House’s controversial approval of multiple charter flights allowing Saudi nationals — including princes — to depart the US, beginning about 48 hours after the attacks, without the passengers being interviewed by law enforcement. This was after the identification of the majority of the hijackers as Saudis.

In addition, these revelations draw further attention to a web of relationships that include the long and close business, personal, and political ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family.

September 11, World Trade Center

Fires still burn amidst the rubble and debris of the World Trade Centers in New York City in the area known as Ground Zero two days after the 9/11 attacks. Photo credit: Mike Goad / Flickr

A Mysterious Disappearance

The al-Hijji family left Florida on August 27, 2001, according to reports released in 2019 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (The date had previously been given as August 30.) A counterterrorism agent and an administrator/security agent of the gated community got into the house and reported these findings:

There was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms … all the toiletries still in place … all their clothes hanging in the closet … TVs … opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house … the pool running, with toys in it … The beds were made … fruit on the counter … the refrigerator full of food. … It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie … [But] the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip. … A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they’d taken [another] computer and left the cord.

They abandoned three recently registered vehicles, including a brand-new Chrysler PT Cruiser, purchased in mid-August 2001.

The al-Hijji family left in a white van and traveled to another Ghazzawi property in Arlington, VA; then — with Esam Ghazzawi — they went, via Dulles airport and London’s Heathrow, to Riyadh.

Evidence Linking Family to 9/11

The Florida Bulldog reported the following discoveries:

Records subpoenaed from the phone company linked calls dating back for more than a year to and from the house to several of the 9/11 hijackers, and other terrorist suspects, including senior al-Qaeda member, Adnan Shukrijumah,

Mohamed Atta (who crashed a plane into the WTC), and Ziad Jarrah (who crashed a plane in Pennsylvania) were documented by gatekeepers to the Florida complex as visitors to the family. And their license plates were photographed as they went through the gate.

Three of the four men who piloted planes on 9/11 lived within 10 miles of the [al-Hijji/Ghazzawi] family and attended flight schools nearby.

Denial Upon Denial

The FBI failed to provide the information to congressional 9/11 investigators, or to the presidential 9/11 commission. They also did not turn over information connecting the hijackers to other Saudis living in California — which congressional investigators later discovered on their own.

When these investigators turned over to the 9/11 Commission a large body of information on the hijackers that they themselves had acquired, the panel seemed uninterested.

Saudi Royal Ties to 9/11 Hijackers Via Florida Saudi Family?

9/11 Silence on Saudis

“They did very little with it,” said former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who served as co-chair of the congressional joint inquiry into 9/11, “and their reference to Saudi Arabia is almost cryptic sometimes. … I never got a good answer as to why they did not pursue that.”

The final 28-page section of the congressional report — which deals with “sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers” — was entirely blanked out when it was released in July 2016. It was kept secret from the public on the orders of former President George W. Bush and is still withheld to this day, Graham said. (See additional revelations reported by WhoWhatWhy.)

Also kept from the public: Esam Ghazzawi and Abdulaziz al-Hijji had been on the FBI watch list — even before 9/11.

In response to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune article, the FBI issued a statement on September 15, 2011, claiming that the occupants of the house had been tracked down and interrogated, and that they were found to have no connections to the hijackers.

In March 2012, Lee Hamilton, former Indiana congressman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said, “We looked quite carefully at [possible Saudi involvement] and even sent investigators over there, and we found no hard evidence of any linkage to the hijackers. At the end of the day, you have to have hard evidence. Having said that, I will also say that despite our thorough investigation, a lot of questions about 9/11 remain unanswered.”

In a story published August 30, 2019, in Britain’s Telegraph, the FBI is quoted as saying, “At no time did the FBI develop evidence that connected the family members to any of the 9/11 hijackers … and there was no connection found to the 9/11 plot.’’

In court filings seeking to stave off a media Freedom of Information request, the FBI stated that releasing documents relating to this issue will harm “national security.” 

As proof of the sensitivity of the matter, the FBI gave the judge a document dated April 4, 2002, in which the FBI states provocatively that its own inquiries “revealed many connections” between a well-connected Saudi family with a house in South Florida and “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”

Official 9/11 Narrative on Life Support

Saudi Prince Visiting Trump Tied to Unresolved 9/11 Questions

More Denials

Abdulaziz al-Hijji, who rented the Florida house from Ghazzawi and is married to Ghazzawi’s daughter, now lives in London, where he works for his country’s state oil company. In an email to the Telegraph, he made the following assertion:

I have neither relation nor association with any of those bad people/criminals and the awful crime they did. 9/11 is a crime against the USA and all humankind and I’m very saddened and oppressed by these false allegations.

He also denied that he left his home in haste:

No, no, no. Absolutely not true. We were trying to secure the [Aramco] job. It was a good opportunity.

He added the surprising claim that his wife and children followed him to Saudi Arabia a few weeks after he left. But that directly contradicts what the FBI found, including the disarray in the abandoned house, and the bureau’s assertion that the whole family left the country within days of abandoning the Sarasota house.

A former neighbor and close friend of al-Hijji, Tom Bello, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune his Saudi friend did not raise any suspicion because of his “easy manner.” But then he remembered something significant:

He felt Americans came to their country to steal their oil and take their money. He said he did not like Americans because of what we did to his country.

He said: “How would you like it if we came to your country and did that?”


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from The U.S. National Archives / Flickr.

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7 responses to “Judge Orders Release of Records That Might Tie Saudi Royals to 9/11”

  1. Brian says:

    One engineer who would easily qualify as an expert in a debate about building collapses is Professor Leroy Hulsey, Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF). Not only is Professor Hulsey head of UAF’s civil engineering program, but he is also a recognized expert in the field of forensic engineering.

    On Sep 3rd, 2019 at UAF Professor Hulsey after four years of study gave his verdict on the controversial but “official” NIST 2007 report into the collapse on 9/11/2001 of the 47 story skyscraper WTC Building 7. He said the report prepared by NIST engineers and scientists was invalid and erroneous and the details of the computer model the NIST engineers built in an attempt to understand the collapse mechanism also had within it multiple omissions and errors. Taken altogether, it meant that the NIST theory that WTC 7’s collapse was due to office fires was invalid and wrong.

    Note that unlike the twin towers WTC 1 & 2, WTC 7 had not been hit by a plane, although some office fires were seen to be burning on a few floors of the skyscraper during the course of the day. After studying the WTC 7 collapse, the official investigators at NIST had concluded in 2007 that burning office fires overheated steel beams at floor 13. These beams expanded and pushed a girder off of a seat where it attached at a vertical column in the North East section of the building. This one failure, NIST believes, lead to a chain event of further structural failures such that, as NIST describes it, a “new type of progressive collapse” occurred to bring the entire building down, symmetrically, mostly into its own footprint, at absolute freefall for 2.5 seconds of the 7 second collapse (measured from when the roof line started to move downwards).

    Professor Hulsey in his presentation at UAF on Sep 3rd past on the occasion of the release of his draft report after his four year study into the collapse of WTC 7 concluded that WTC 7 did NOT suffer a progressive collapse, and NIST was mistaken as office fires could NOT have brought WTC 7 down at all.

    Professor Hulsey explained that the only way he and his own investigation team comprised of two PhD engineering students could get a computer model to collapse in the manner observed in the multiple videos showing WTC 7 going down at 5:20pm in the afternoon of 9/11 was by invoking in their model a near simultaneous failure of every structural column in the entire building for a height of 8 stories.

    Professor Hulseys, oral presentation was recorded and posted at the UAF web site. His report has been made available for download so that anyone can download and review it. Just use your favorite search engine.

    Professor Hulsey is also making all the data and calculations he used in his own study and computer models available for download so that his report can be peer reviewed. He is leaving two months for feedback and comments before writing a final report. Note that many assumptions and details that went into the NIST report were not released to the public, or even other engineers, by NIST as they said it “could jeopardize public safety.”

  2. Gary W. Dolgin says:

    Although Bill Maher took flak for his statement, he wasn’t incorrect. The hijackers, virtually all Saudis, were not cowards. But they were evil. Which seems to go to the heart of the matter of virulent tribalism. Peter O’Toole as “Lawrence of Arabia” addressed the issue circumspectly when, in lobbying to coalesce the Bedouin tribes against the Ottomans, “so long as you remain feuding like this you shall remain a silly people.” That mentality, stoked by fanatical Islam, has sired a well-robed barbarism.

  3. Mike says:

    9/11 was just the tip of the iceberg. During the weeks leading up to the attack there were Saudis training in the Bell Jet Ranger at a local FBO. I last saw them in native dress at the FBO preparing to depart the country. Were their plans to use helicopters in additional attacks? We need to be more vigilant and question the motive of those requesting entry into this country; especially those who claim to be our friends.

  4. Jay says:

    Al Hijji and the rest of the family need to be snatched up by Seal Team 6 and taken to a black site for a real interrogation. Our coward “leaders” should of done this years ago. Make all the info public and shine a light on it. Should we be selling these enemies billions of dollars in military hardware? Should we really be helping these fanatics in Saudi Arabia to fight their sectarian war in Yemen? A war which is killing plenty of women and children. America needs to wash our hands of this country. To the FBI, I sat anyone who withheld investigative info needs to be fired and have their pension taken away. Their actions are un-American to the highest degree. Hiding away info on the perpetrators of the worst attack our country had faced since Pearl Harbor.

  5. Veronica says:

    There are still so many unanswered questions on the whole 9/11 dirty deed, that I fear we will never get to the bottom of it. And now Trump is ‘best buddies’ with S. Arabia too, so who knows what the real facts are about anything the top level is up to. It does not make for a very trustworthy state of affairs, or confidence that what is happening is for the country’s good, especially now that Mr. anything-for-a-buck is in charge !

  6. MacKenzie says:

    What ever happened to “THE GREAT 9/11 BUILDING DEBATE” that WhoWhatWhy was planning on setting up? Is there any chance this can still be set up?

    https://whowhatwhy.org/2016/09/06/experts-sought-great-911-building-debate/