SARASOTA, Fla. - For years, the FBI insisted that it found no evidence that the family from Saudi Arabia living in an upscale Sarasota neighborhood had any connection to the 9/11 attackers. But documents out this week show that the FBI found "many connections" and kept it quiet.
When terrorists struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, people in the gated Prestancia neighborhood grew suspicious of the Saudi family that had bugged out of its half-million dollar home two weeks before the attacks.
Some called authorities.
"They said we were not the first ones who had called," said Aurora Cameron, in an interview with ABC7 in September 2011. "But further than that, we didn't hear anything."
That's because the FBI didn't tell. But the news website BrowardBulldog.org reports that the feds had found links – visits to the home and phone calls from 9/11 attackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi. But they denied it. As recently as a year-and-a-half ago, the justice department wrote to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont), to say, "contrary to suggestions in media reports, the FBI did not develop any evidence that connected the family members to any of the 9/11 hijackers or to the 9/11 plot.”
"We had nearly 3,000 people killed in these attacks," says Dan Christensen, Editor of BrowardBulldog.org. "And it still seems as if we don't know the full truth here as to what happened."
His site sued the FBI to get documents, and among a small stack of them released this week, appears an FBI memo from 2002, barely six months after 9/11, which says its investigation “revealed many connections between the family and individuals associated with the terrorist attacks.”
"If there was a support network in place for hijackers,” Christensen says, “it may still be in place."
The question becomes, what's the FBI's thinking about why it tried to keep what appears to be such a network secret – even from congress? And what else should we wonder remains unanswered about September 11th, and those who pulled it off?