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Investigate 9/11 link in Sarasota, Fla. lawmaker says

A decade after the FBI found ties between a Saudi family living quietly near Sarasota and the 9/11 hijackers, a Florida Democratic congresswoman is calling on the House Intelligence Committee to investigate whether agents revealed their findings to Congress.

Kathy Castor said she was troubled over reports that federal agents discovered a luxury home where the family was living was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers and phone calls were linked between the home and the terrorists, but Congress was not told of the discovery.

The family abruptly left the home less than two weeks before the attacks, leaving a new car in the driveway, a refrigerator stuffed with food, toys in the pool — and an open safe in the master bedroom, according to administrators at the development.

“One of the great criticisms of the pre-9/11 intelligence operations,” Castor wrote in her letter on Monday to the committee’s two senior members, “was the lack of cooperation and information sharing among agencies.”

The dispute over what Congress knew about the case emerged last week after The Miami Herald reported about the little known FBI investigation at the upscale development on Florida’s west coast..

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who chaired the congressional Joint Inquiry into the deadly hijackings, said he was never told about the case, while the FBI, in a statement released Friday, said the agency did indeed tell Congress and the 911 Commission.

“With respect to recent reports about the Sarasota area, there is no new information related to the 9/11 hijackers,’’ said the FBI, adding the case was found not to be related to the 9/11 events. “All of the documentation pertaining to the 9/11 investigation was made available to the 9/11 Commission and the [joint inquiry].”

But Graham says questions still abound over the bizarre events that occurred at the three-bedroom home owned by Saudi financier Esam Ghazzawi, whose daughter and son-in-law and two young children resided there.

Graham disputed the FBI’s statement that the agency informed the Congress, saying it was “BS” that he and congressional investigators were told about the Sarasota events.

In an appearance Monday on MSNBC, Graham said he spoke with President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism advisor.

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