New details emerge on local post-9/11 flight

Taking off
By PETER VOSKAMP  |  September 19, 2007
It’s been six years since 9/11, and far from becoming old news, there’s always more to learn about that day and its aftermath.
 
Remember the charter flights that expedited Saudi nationals out of the US soon after the attacks? Some of these whisked away Saudi royalty, while others, more ominously, carried extended members of the bin Laden family.
 
A 2003 Vanity Fair article claimed that the FBI facilitated the flights, and Judicial Watch eventually forced the release of the FBI.’s own heavily redacted documents about the matter. The documents, with various information blacked out, nonetheless confirm that six charter flights carrying Saudis left the US between September 14 (the first day flights were allowed) and September 24, 2001.
 
The first of these infamous flights, it appears, took off from our own T.F. Green Airport. Yet a March 27, 2005, New York Times article, reprinted on page A-13 of the Providence Journal, provided little detail.
 
According to the documents unearthed by Judicial Watch, a public interest group, “On 9/14/2001, four individuals, including [redacted], a member of the Saudi Royal Family, flew from Providence, R.I., to Paris, France, aboard a chartered aircraft.” The flight — paid for with an American Express card, the name of whose owner was redacted — cost $75,000 and the passengers carried 1500 pounds of luggage.
 
“Pacific Jet Company” booked the charter through Northstar Aviation in Warwick. The FBI interviewed individuals at Northstar, while, according to the documents, the Rhode Island State Police and US Customs Service searched the luggage. The names of those on the flight remain redacted.
 
“Extensive investigation revealed no information to suggest travel by [redacted] and [redacted] and [redacted] within New England was connected to any terrorist or criminal activity,” the documents continue.
 
Northstar Aviation is owned by Frank Zammiello, a Cranston and Florida-based real estate mogul who wants to build a high rise on Federal Hill. As the Providence Journal noted in July, Zammiello and his family in 1986 pledged more than $6 million to secure a pre-trial release for then-New England mob boss Raymond J. “Junior” Patriarca.
 
The FBI conducted follow-up interviews regarding the Providence flight into 2002. Reading between redactions, it appears that the royal passenger's plans to attend a New England school fell through and his father called him home immediately after the attacks on 9/11.
 
An agent in the Providence FBI office first denied the flight in question happened, and then said he had a vague memory of it. (A lot of turnover since that day, he said.)  He found another agent with more information, but to talk they had to have permission from the FBI’s Boston office, which declined to provide it.
Related: Ring of fire, A spate of phony ‘terror’ plots, Domestic spying, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Judiciary,  More more >
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