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Startling decade of secrecy; Saudi family's ties to 9/11 hijackers should have been revealed long ago

One of the most appalling and underreported pieces of 9/1 1 news showed up last Sunday in a news story reporting that just two weeks before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a Saudi family abruptly vacated its luxury home near Sarasota, Fla. The family left a new car in the driveway, a refrigerator full of food and an open safe.

Even more damning, investigators discovered in the weeks to follow that the home had been visited by vehicles used by the 9/1 1 hijackers and that phone calls linked the home with those who carried out the hijackings, including leader Mohammed Atta.

Yet this information was kept secret for 10 years, not only from Americans in general, but also from the members of the independent commission that investigated the terror attacks. One theory for why the information was withheld is that the Bush administration wanted to protect the Saudis and itself from embarrassment -- and no wonder. Bush justified the invasion of Iraq in part on the false idea that it was involved in the 9/1 1 attacks. The news that wealthy Saudis appear to have been involved could have complicated that argument.

Nevertheless, this country went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq while its government concealed critical information about a larger-than-understood role played from within Saudi Arabia. There has been no suggestion that the Saudi government had any knowledge of this, but neither has there been any investigation to determine the exact nature of this family's part, if any, in the attacks.

We're not suggesting that the United States should have attacked Saudi Arabia, but it is plain that Americans deserve more answers about what was going on 10 years ago in Sarasota. Ten years is a long time, but it's not too late to continue putting together the pieces of this terrible puzzle. Ten years wasn't too long to deal justice to Osama bin Laden or to create the moving memorials that now occupy the footprints of the former towers of the World Trade Center.

The people living in the house at the time were identified as Abdulazzi al-Hiijjii and his wife, Anoud. The owner of the house was Anoud's father, Esam Ghazzawi. The Justice Department should pursue them and, presuming that they are in another country, demand that its government produce them for questioning.

Thousands of American military personnel have lost their lives in the response to the attacks of 9/1 1. The nation has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in military operations and domestic security. Such was the devastating impact of those attacks.

Our troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Local, state and national governments are on high alert, tracking down unconfirmed reports of another attack planned to occur around the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks.

It is not only reasonable, but essential, to demand answers about what was going on in that house in Florida.

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