Is there any proof that the family members of Osama Bin Laden got to leave America immediately following the 9/11 attacks, during the time when all air travel was banned?

Or is this just unverified, documentary film (e.g., Fahrenheit 911) stuff?

  • 3
    I could have sworn we had this one before, but I can't find it.... so, good question and I can't believe of all the 9-11 questions weve had this isnt one of them!
    – Jamiec
    Oct 4, 2016 at 13:13
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    @Jamiec : We don't have that much different 9-11 questions. For the most part the kind of people who ask 9-11 questions don't focus on claims as specific as this when they ask questions on this website.
    – Christian
    Oct 4, 2016 at 15:28
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    There are a number of articles and documents showing that the flights in question happened immediately after restrictions were lifted. While the restrictions were lifted, it took a while for most commercial traffic to ramp back up, so many of those flights were still cancelled. I will post an answer with links to FBI documents that were released, as well as the 9/11 Commission Report if no one else covers it when I'm not at work. Oct 4, 2016 at 16:20
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    If my name were "Bin Laden", I would have done anything in my power to leave the USA as quickly as possible after 9/11. And while many Americans would have been afraid of flying, I would have been more afraid to not fly.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 9, 2016 at 22:29
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    @User001: They are not "Osama's family members". The Bin Laden family is a huge family running a huge and highly successful construction business in Saudi Arabia and nearby countries. There are probably a hundred or so children, grand children, and grand grand children of the family founder, some involved in the business, many not much involved, and one of those over hundred was one guy named Osama. Osama bin Laden was just one distant member of the bin Laden family.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 15, 2016 at 13:48

2 Answers 2


Many of Osama bin Laden's family were protected by the FBI in the days following the attacks, but did not leave until the flight ban was lifted.

CBS News gives a readable account of the events in late September 2001:

They left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks.

The allegations that they were permitted to leave before the flight bans were lifted was investigated by the 9/11 Commission.

The commission's report has a section on this subject, titled "Flights of Saudi Nationals Leaving the United States", which asks the questions:

  1. Did any flights of Saudi nationals take place before national airspace reopened on September 13, 2011?

They found no evidence for this - they could only find flights that happened after the national airspace had reopened.

  1. Was there any political intervention to facilitate the departure of Saudi nationals?

They found no evidence that "anyone at the White House above the level of Richard Clarke (a special assistant to the President) participated in a decision on the departure of Saudi nationals.

  1. Did the FBI screen Saudi nationals thoroughly before their departure.

They concluded that the FBI conducted satisfactory screenings, and independently reviewed the Saudi nationals involved and confirmed they had no known links to terrorism.


They were flown out, but not when air travel was banned.

Firstly, civilian air traffic was allowed to resume "at 11 a.m. EDT [eastern daylight time] Thursday [13 September 2001]", so there was only about a 48 hour period where flights were prohibited.

As explained in a 30 September 2001 New York Times article:

Both planes, one jumbo jet carrying 100 family members, and the other 40, were eventually allowed to leave when airports reopened and passports were checked


The young members of the bin Laden clan were driven or flown under F.B.I. supervision to a secret assembly point in Texas and then to Washington from where they left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks.

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