Bin Laden family's US exit
THE United States
allowed members of Osama bin Laden’s family to jet out of the
US in the immediate aftermath of September 11, even as
American airspace was closed.
Former White House
counter-terrorism tsar Richard Clarke said the Bush
administration sanctioned the repatriation of about 140
high-ranking Saudi Arabians, including relatives of the
"Somebody brought to us for approval
the decision to let an aeroplane filled with Saudis, including
members of the Bin Laden family, leave the country," he said.
Mr Clarke said he checked with FBI officials, who gave
the go ahead. "So I said: ‘Fine, let it happen.’"
first asked the bureau to check that no-one "inappropriate"
"I have no idea if they did a good job,"
Dale Watson, the FBI’s former head of
counter-terrorism, said that, while the bureau identified the
Saudis who were on the plane, "they were not subject to
The plane is believed to have
landed in ten US cities picking up passengers, including Los
Angeles, Washington DC, Boston and Houston. At the time,
access to US airspace was restricted and required special
Tom Kinton, director of aviation
at Boston’s Logan Airport, said: "We were in the midst of the
worst terrorist act in history and here we were seeing an
evacuation of the Bin Ladens."
But he said it was
clear the flight had been sanctioned by federal authorities.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the
US who is said to have organised the exodus, met President
George Bush on September 13, 2001, two days after the terror
attacks. It is not known if they discussed the repatriation
The White House has declined to comment on the
claims, but sources said the Bush administration was confident
no secret flights took place.
Mr Clarke said he did
not recall who requested approval for the flights, but
believes it was either the FBI or the State Department.
But FBI spokesman John Iannarelli said: "I can say
unequivocally that the FBI had no role in facilitating these