Sep 14, 2021 - Politics
Tampa Bay’s mysterious 9/11 link could be made public
Small airplanes sit on the tarmac at the Venice Municipal Airport, where three 9/11 terrorists took flying lessons.
Small airplanes sit on the tarmac at the Venice Municipal Airport, where three 9/11 terrorists took lessons. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Biden’s order to the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies to declassify documents related to 9/11 could help solve a mystery about a Saudi family who fled a gated community in Sarasota County just before the attacks.

What’s new: The FBI’s review was due Sept. 11, and additional documents, including reports with investigative findings, are to be reviewed over the next six months with an eye for disclosure, AP reports.

  • "Information shall not remain classified if there is significant doubt about the need to maintain its classified status," the order reads.
  • Those reports could shed light on what was happening behind the gates of a Sarasota community called Prestancia in the months before the attacks.

What we know: The family from Saudi Arabia — said to have ties to the Saudi royal family — fled two weeks before 9/11, leaving behind food, jewelry, clothes and cars, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune has reported.

  • Gate logs show that three of the hijackers — who learned to fly in nearby Venice — visited the family frequently in Sarasota, a city with perhaps more strange 9/11 connections than anywhere in America.
  • Within two months, Manatee County sheriff’s deputies interviewed a man from Tunisia who was seen tossing items into a dumpster in Bradenton — including a terrorism manual, a map of an airport, and a last will and testament.
  • The FBI connected the man to the vanished Prestancia family, a fact first made public by the Broward Bulldog in 2014.

Yes, but: None of that was included in the public 9/11 Commission Report.

What they’re saying: "As we relive the painful memories on the 20th anniversary, it is vital the federal government communicate all it has learned so we can do everything possible to protect Americans," Bob Graham, former Florida governor and senator, wrote to President Biden.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.