By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The Herald-Tribune Media Group and the Miami Herald Media Co. have joined a federal lawsuit asking a federal judge to make FBI officials release information about a 9/11 investigation in Sarasota.
The lawsuit was originally filed about a year ago by the Broward Bulldog, an investigative news agency run out of Broward County. Broward Bulldog founder Dan Christensen filed the complaint in U.S. District Court against the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department. It accuses these federal agencies of improperly withholding records of an investigation from Congress, the 9/11 Commission and the American public that show a link between a Saudi family in Sarasota and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011.
Since that time, the Herald-Tribune has backed the complaint. The latest backing comes from The Miami Herald. According to the Herald-Tribune:
The newspapers are seeking to convince a federal judge that the public’s need to know what happened outweighs an FBI assertion of privacy interests.
U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch is presiding over the case, which was initiated in September 2012 by the Broward Bulldog and its Miami attorney Tom Julin.
U.S. attorneys representing the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice already have objected to the Herald-Tribune’s request to intervene.
In late June, Judge Zloch denied the government’s original motion to dismiss the case, filed by the FBI’s attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carole M. Fernandez.
Zloch went further, asking Julin to describe in writing how the FBI might conduct a more thorough search for information relevant to the Broward Bulldog’s Freedom of Information Act request.
The judge is expected to rule soon on the government’s second attempt to get the case thrown out.
The lawsuit has gotten a considerable amount of media attention in the past year thanks to ongoing coverage by Christensen, as well as a high-profiled call to action.
Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham has been calling on federal officials to reopen investigations into the 9/11 hijackers in light of information about the Sarasota FBI case. Graham was formerly the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and he co-chaired the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 about a decade ago. Graham has written in several op-eds as of late that little has been explained to the public about the extent of support the 9/11 hijackers received. In order to find that out, he has said, the president needs to reopen investigations into foreign support for the 9/11 hijackers. He wrote that these investigations should include a thorough look into various cities — including Delray Beach, where many of the hijackers spent time.
Graham also has noted that the Sarasota Saudis mentioned in Christensen’s reporting have been able to dodge lawsuits from the families of 9/11 victims because they receive “sovereign immunity” here, which is why he has suggested that the sovereign immunity law shielding foreigners from legal repercussions be changed.