RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force have filed an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, Atlanta, supporting the non-profit Florida news organization Broward Bulldog’s effort to obtain FBI documents related to the investigation of the 9/11 hijackers.
Bulldog editor Dan Christiensen has been attempting, through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to access FBI records surrounding the bureau’s investigation of a Saudi family that allegedly had close ties to the hijackers, and that abruptly and mysteriously left their home in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before the terror attacks.
Since 2011, Christiensen has been trying to determine whether the Saudi family’s alleged meetings with mastermind Mohammed Atta and, perhaps, other hijackers, portend greater Saudi support, funding and otherwise, of the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to thwart further attacks.
9/11 Commission Co-Chair Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator from Florida, describes the possible Saudi connection to the attacks one of the remaining “unanswered questions” surrounding the largest terrorist attack on American soil.
The FBI originally responded to Christiensen’s FOIA request by stating it had no relevant documents. After the Broward Bulldog filed suit against the bureau, the FBI did provide a small number of documents, but they were heavily redacted. The bureau also indicated it had found a large number of other documents but refused to release the majority of them, claiming national security and other concerns.
A federal judge in Miami largely ruled in favor of the FBI, prompting the Broward Bulldog’s appeal.
The amicus brief, filed on behalf of RTDNA and other press freedom groups, along with some news organizations, cites “the FBI’s lackadaisical search efforts, and its pattern of repeatedly declaring it had fully complied, only later to retract that assertion.”
“It is hard to conceive how it would not be in the public’s interest for the FBI to reveal fully all of the documents in its possession related to whether Saudi Arabia was complicit in the 9/11 attacks,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director. “It is particularly difficult to understand, given that given some members of the 9/11 Commission, some current and former members of Congress, and many members of the public have been left to wonder whether the federal government has ‘whitewashed’ the Saudi government’s involvement, if any.”
RTDNA formed the nonpartisan Voice of the First Amendment Task Force early this year to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. It is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats to press freedom in America. Subscribe to Voice of the First Amendment updates or each out to the task force by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.