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The Saudi Flights
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Yes, I've read the Moore site Matthew linked to. It sounds to me, hashing through the Newsweek accounts and Moore's defense, that these facts are fairly solid:

  • Normal flights began resuming on September 13th. This is the day of the first of the Saudi flights, which was not an "evacuation", but a domestic flight from Tampa, Florida to Lexington, Kentucky.
  • The first flights out of the country were the next day, September 14th. The FBI screened and interviewed everyone of interest and determined they were clear to leave the country. This is validated by the 9/11 commission reports.
  • The authorization for the flights came from Richard Clarke.

Does anyone dispute any of this?

Now here is a partial transcript from Fahrenheit 9/11, covering the section where the flights are discussed:

[A plane flies overhead before landing.]

[Scenes of stranded travelers in airports.]

MOORE (VO): In the days following September 11, all commercial and private airline traffic was grounded.

[An airport flight monitor listing all planes as cancelled.]

[A lot of planes parked on the ground.]

MALE SPOKESMAN: The FAA has taken the action to close all the airports in the United States.

[Bush I and Barbara enter a dark car.]

MALE NEWSMAN (VO): Even grounding the President’s father, former President Bush, on a flight forced to land in Milwaukee.

[More stranded travelers.]

MALE NEWSMAN (VO): Thousands of travelers were stranded. [Ricky Martin.] Among them, Ricky Martin, due to appear at tonight’s Latin Grammy awards.

MOORE (VO): Not even Ricky Martin could fly. But really, who wanted to fly? [A dog walked by the police in an airport terminal.] No one. [Osama bin Laden.] Except the bin Ladens.

This certainly makes it sound like neither former President Bush nor Ricky Martin could fly during a time when the Saudis could. Which is utterly misleading.

[A large plane takes off, apparently dodging missiles(???).]

SONG: We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do…

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND), Senate Subcommittee on Aviation: We had some airplanes authorized at the highest levels of our government to fly to pick up Osama bin Laden’s family members and others from Saudi Arabia and transport them out of this country.

[New York Times headline: White House Approved Departure of Saudis After Sept. 11]

MOORE (VO): It turns out that the White House approved planes to pick up the bin Ladens and numerous other Saudis. [Listing of flights to Saudi Arabia.] At least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes [Close Up: “SAUDIA ARABIA”] carried the Saudis and the bin Ladens out of the US after September 13th. [CU: Scan down long list of flights, focusing on the 9/13 date.] In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country.

So it shows the date, 9/13. How many people watching the film know that commercial aviation had resumed by this time? Why doesn't Moore bother telling you?

And he says 142 Saudies "were allowed to leave the country". Yes, after being screened by the FBI and showing legitimate passports. What's the implication here?

[Osama bin Laden.]

CRAIG UNGER, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: Osama’s always been portrayed as the bad apple, the black sheep of the family and that they’ve cut off all relationships with him around 1994. In fact, things are much more complicated than that.

MOORE (OS): You mean Osama has had contact with other family members?

[Osama bin Laden.]

UNGER: That’s right. In the summer of 2001 right before 9/11 one of Osama’s sons got married in Afghanistan and several family members showed up at the wedding.

MOORE (OS): bin Ladens.

UNGER: That’s right. So they’ve not cut off completely. That’s really an exaggeration.

LARRY KING: We now welcome to Larry King Live — good to see him again — Prince Bandar, the ambassador of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States.

PRINCE BANDAR: … We had about 24 members of bin Laden’s family. And, uh — in America. Students, and — And His Majesty thought it’s not fair for these innocent people to be subjected to any harm. On the other hand, we understood you had the high emotions. So, with the cooperation of the FBI, we got them all out.

[Jack Cloonan.]

MOORE (VO): This is retired FBI agent Jack Cloonan. Before 9/11, he was a senior agent on the joint FBI-CIA Al-Qaeda task force.

CLOONAN: Yes, an investigator would not want these people to have left. … I think in the case of the bin Laden family I think it would have been prudent: hand the subpoenas out, have them come in, get on the record. Get on the record.

MOORE (OS): That’s the proper procedure.

CLOONAN: Yeah. [FBI pushing someone into a car.] How many people were pulled by the airlines after that coming into the country who were what, coming from the Middle East or they fit a very general picture.

MOORE (OS): We held hundreds of…

CLOONAN: We have held hundreds…

MOORE (OS): …for weeks and months at a time.

Oh, well he interviews a retired FBI agent, who knows nothing about what procedure was actually carried out, saying what should have been done. Again, according to the 9/11 commission reports, interviews were carried out and the passengers were screened to the satsifaction of the FBI.

[Craig Unger.]

MOORE (OS): Did we do anything when the bin Ladens tried to leave the country?

UNGER: No, they were identified at the airport. They were—they look at their passports and they were identified.

MOORE (OS): Well, that’s what would happen to you or I if we were leaving the country.

UNGER: Exactly. Exactly.

MOORE (OS): A little interview, check the passport, what else?

UNGER: Nothing.

Did we do anything when they tried to leave the country? Unger says "no", just that they looked at their passports and identified them. But on the Michael Moore website he says:

In his first Newsweek piece attacking the movie, "Under the Hot Lights," which appeared in theJune 28 issue of the magazine, Isikoff asserts that I claim "that bin Laden family members were never interviewed by the FBI." Isikoff proceeds to attack me for that claim. Unfortunately for him, I never made it. Isikoff's assertion is a complete fabrication.

Gosh, a reasonable person could conclude from the question, "Did we do anything?", and the answer "No, just checked their passports and identified them" to mean that they weren't screened.

Moore, in fact, is the only one who brings up interviews ("a little interview", he says). Unger only notes that they were identified via passport. Moore makes it sound like this is exactly the sort of treatment that any other international traveler would go through, that the "little interview" is probably akin to "What's your destination? Are you carrying any fruit". Which is a distortion. They were screened and questioned by the FBI. Not just asked if they were carrying any liquor. When was the last time the FBI screened you at the airport?

I honestly don't know if the people here who are defending the film's tactics are simply so blinded by their hatred of George Bush that they're not willing to acknowledge when someone in their own ranks is twisting the's patently obvious.

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