Sulla questione dei voli con passeggeri arabi che lasciarono gli Stati Uniti dopo l’undici settembre:

“It’s a myth. But like all great myths, it has such suggestive power that it will live on for years, despite its feeble connection to fact. For what it’s worth, here are the facts, as gathered by the staff of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission:

Between Sept. 14 and 24, 2001, six chartered flights carrying mostly Saudi nationals among their 142 passengers departed from the U.S. The 9/11 Commission found “no credible evidence that any chartered flights of Saudi Arabian nationals” left before U.S. airspace reopened. Moreover, all six flights “were screened by law-enforcement officials, primarily the FBI” to ensure that no one of interest was allowed to leave. The most controversial flight, filled with members of the sprawling bin Laden family, left Sept. 20. Of the 26 people aboard — 23 passengers and three private security guards — the FBI interviewed 22 before the plane was allowed to leave.

Last week, I reviewed these facts with Mr. Unger, who is now a principal proponent of the Saudi flight myth. “I think most of that is true,” he replied. “I never said any flight left the U.S. while there were still restrictions on U.S. airspace.”

I asked Mr. Unger, what’s the problem then? He pointed to an account, first reported in the Tampa Tribune, of a Lear jet with three Saudi passengers that flew from Tampa, Fla., to Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 13, 2001, as part of an effort to help prominent Saudis who feared reprisals in the U.S. While commercial airspace was open at that time, private planes still weren’t allowed to fly, according to Mr. Unger. He said he believes it couldn’t have flown “without a special favor from the White House.” Moreover, he says, he’s not sure “the FBI did their job thoroughly” in screening passengers on the Saudi flights that later left the U.S.

The 9/11 Commission still is investigating the Tampa flight, but it has found no evidence that any discussion of Saudi flights rose higher than Richard Clarke, former antiterrorism czar and now a prominent critic of President Bush. Moreover, the coordinated Saudi flights turned out to be a convenience for FBI officials, who were able to screen all passengers and interview any they wished — something they wouldn’t have been able to do if the same passengers had traveled on commercial airlines. To check the FBI’s work, the 9/11 Commission this year ran the names of all passengers on the Saudi flights against current terrorism-watch lists, and found no matches.

As for bin Laden family members, Mr. Clarke strongly suggested in his public testimony to the commission that they had been under close surveillance by U.S. officials for some time. “The FBI was extraordinarily well aware of what they were doing in the United States,” he testified. Mr. Clarke, who has shown no hesitancy to criticize the Bush White House, concludes the Saudi flight story “is a tempest in a teapot.”

There are plenty of reasons to question President Bush’s handling of national-security matters during the past 3? years. But there is no reason to rely on mythology in the process. Let’s have a great debate. But stick to the facts, please”

Wall Street Journal

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