Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation’s air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.
For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.
But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.
The odyssey of the small LearJet 35 is part of a larger controversy over the hasty exodus from the United States in the days immediately after 9/11 of members of the Saudi royal family and relatives of Osama bin Laden.
The terrorism panel, better known as the 9/11 Commission, said in April that it knew of six chartered flights with 142 people aboard, mostly Saudis, that left the United States between Sept. 14 and 24, 2001. But it has said nothing about the Tampa flight.
The Saudis asked the Tampa Police Department to escort the flight, but the department handed off the assignment to Dan Grossi, a former member of the force, Unger said. Grossi recruited Manuel Perez, a retired FBI agent, to accompany him. Both described the flight to Unger as somewhat surreal.
“They got the approval somewhere,” Perez is quoted as telling Unger. “It must have come from the highest levels of government.”
The 9/11 Commission, which has said the flights out of the United States were handled appropriately by the FBI, appears concerned with the handling of the Tampa flight.
“What information, if any, do you have about the screening by law enforcement personnel—including law enforcement personnel affiliated with the airport facility—of individuals on this flight?” the commission asked TIA.
The TIA Police Department said a check of its records indicated no member of its force screened the Lear’s passengers.
So there we have it. Official confirmation that immediately after the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Saudi Arabians, the Bush administration organized a secret airlift of Saudis, including Osama’s family—and there was apparently absolutely no security screening.
Take note, as this will no doubt be one of the things Michael Moore is accused of having made up.