On the heels of a Freedom of Information lawsuit seeking records about the FBI’s reportedly secret investigation into apparent pre-9/11 terrorist activity with connections to the Saudi royal family, the bureau doesn’t appear in a hurry to release the 27 boxes of records a federal judge ordered it to turn over, according to the Broward Bulldog investigative news site, which filed the FOIA suit.
The Justice Department determined that the office of U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch — who ordered delivery of the documents for his personal inspection — lacks a safe with “storage capability for classified documents.”
But the government has a solution.
“The plan at present is to deliver the safe [which can hold four boxes] on Thursday, May 1, 2014, along with the first four boxes of classified materials,” Miami Assistant U.S. Attorney Dexter Lee said. “When the court has completed its review of the four boxes, chambers will be contacted and I will deliver four more boxes, as well as retrieving the material already reviewed.”
Lee added that he’ll deliver to the court on Friday CD-ROMs containing scanned versions of the classified documents.
If the government’s delivery plan is approved, it would delay the judge’s inspection by weeks or months, the Broward Bulldog noted, adding that Zloch had ordered photocopies of the FBI’s entire 9/11 Tampa file all at once.
And about those 27 boxes? That’s a new total. A senior FBI official stated under oath two weeks ago that there are 23 boxes of documents in the Tampa bureau — but the FBI has just identified four additional boxes of “classified” 9/11 documents, bringing the total to 27 boxes.
There was no explanation for the apparent numerical discrepancy.
FBI records section chief David M. Hardy told the court that the Tampa bureau’s 9/11 “sub file” was “comprised of 23 boxes of records” including “a substantial, but undetermined amount of material classified at the ‘secret’ level.”
More from the Broward Bulldog:
The FBI probe that is the focus of the Freedom of Information lawsuit investigated a Saudi family with ties to the Royal Family and apparent connections to some of the 9/11 hijackers, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, and former Broward resident and currently suspected al Qaeda leader Adnan Shukrijumah.
The investigation began after neighbors in the upscale south Sarasota gated community of Prestancia called authorities to report that Abulaziz al-Hijji and his wife, Anoud, had suddenly moved out of their home two weeks before 9/11, leaving behind cars, furniture, clothing and food in the kitchen.
Sources have said agents later found gatehouse logs and photographs of license tags and phone records, showing that Atta, Shukrijumah and others had visited the al-Hijji’s home.
Indeed, al-Hijji and his wife flew to Saudi Arabia in August 2001, leaving three cars at their home — one of them new — the refrigerator full of food, furniture and clothing inside the residence…even the swimming pool water was still circulating, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Al-Hijji was quoted last year saying he condemned the terror attacks and had no involvement in them. The FBI has said as much, noting publicly that its Sarasota investigation found no evidence connecting Al-Hijji’s family to the hijackers or the 9/11 plot.
Broward Bulldog noted that the FBI kept the investigation secret until the news outfit first disclosed it in September 2011. Its FOIA lawsuit was filed in September 2012 after the FBI denied requests to inspect records about the investigation. In March 2013, the government unexpectedly released more than two-dozen heavily censored records “that nevertheless undercut the Bureau’s previous public denials,” Broward Bulldog noted.
More from Broward Bulldog:
The documents state that the Sarasota Saudis had “many connections” to “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.” One document lists three individuals, with names blacked out, and ties them to the Venice, Florida flight school where suicide hijackers Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi trained.
Last week, the government provided 27 pages of classified documents to Judge Zloch that bear the blanked out case number affixed to the April 16, 2002 FBI report disclosing the family’s “many connections” to terrorists.
(H/T: Miami Herald)