Former Florida governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham wants the United States to reopen investigations into some of the past activity by Saudi Arabia in the wake of a shooting that killed three and injured several others Friday at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
Graham was chairman of a committee that investigated the deadly 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and has spent the last few years fighting to gain access to FBI records involving a prominent Saudi family that mysteriously fled their home and possessions in a gated Sarasota subdivision just a few days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.
He strongly believes the airplane hijackers who flew into the Trade Center were helped by Saudi Arabia.
Graham, in a telephone interview Monday, said he believes President Donald J. Trump should be called upon to order a thorough investigation “and no longer be in the business of protecting the Saudis.’’
Mohammed Alshamrani, 21, a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, was shot and killed after he pulled out a gun and shot Naval officers in a training classroom.
Alshamrani is among some 5,000 foreign military students from various countries who are currently being trained on American military bases.
The foreign students are subjected to background checks but officials remain uncertain whether the shooting was an isolated incident or a broader conspiracy.
Graham says the major unanswered questions remaining from investigations of the 2001 attack involve the role played by the Saudis and why U.S. officials have conspired to cover it up.
If the Saudis are part of a broad conspiracy, it should affect the way the United States deals with the country and other nations in the Middle East, Graham said.
Investigators need to collect all the facts on the latest attack in Pensacola and “take appropriate action to protect our military personnel and demonstrate we are capable of treating Saudi Arabia as a state of questionable alliance with the United States.’’
If an investigation finds that the Saudi effort coincides with what we found 15 years ago, it will dramatically change the relationship between the United States and the Saudis.
One thing is certain, Graham said: “The current president has changed our relationship from one of toleration to one of enthusiastic embrace, and a sword dance as his first foreign relationship.’’ Graham referred to Trump’s official visit to Saudi Arabia as his first foreign trip as president.
Graham, a Democrat, also believes the country should elect a new president “who can view the Saudis through untainted glasses.”
Graham was Florida’s governor from 1979 to 1987 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2005.
He now heads The Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida and has written several books. He lives part of the year in Gainesville and part in Miami Lakes.
Graham’s push for a closer look at the Saudi government earned him an interesting confrontation with FBI agents in 2011.
He and wife Adele were detained by senior FBI officials after landing at Dulles National Airport on their way to visit relatives for Thanksgiving.
Two FBI agents who met the plane escorted the Grahams to a nearby FBI office where Sean M. Joyce, then the second in command at the FBI, urged Graham to forget about his attempt to pursue further investigations into the Saudis.
Graham says the agent insisted the FBI had done a thorough job of investigating the 9/11 attacks despite the fact that no report on the Saudi family living in Sarasota was ever given to the congressional commission investigating the 2001 events.
The FBI has refused to let Graham talk to an agent who actually interviewed witnesses at the Sarasota development and traced contacts between the family and some of the hijackers and will not release its records.
A lawsuit filed against the FBI in an effort to obtain the records has languished in federal court for years.
A South Florida federal judge recently ordered some documents released, but withheld key records on the Saudis.
The 9/11 attack was in the year 2001. In an earlier version of the story, the year in some instances was incorrect. It has has been fixed and we are sorry.