What follows is a verbatim transcript of the portion of Fahrenheit 9/11 which deals with the facts of the Saudi flights out of the US. I have checked the transcript several times for accuracy and I am quite confident it is correct. The film goes on to make jokes and argue why this is important; I have included only the factual portion here. Moore provides documentation for his claims on his website.

[A plane flies overhead before landing.]

[Scenes of stranded travelers in airports.]

MOORE (VO): In the days following September 11, all commercial and private airline traffic was grounded.

[An airport flight monitor listing all planes as cancelled.]

[A lot of planes parked on the ground.]

MALE SPOKESMAN: The FAA has taken the action to close all the airports in the United States.

[Bush I and Barbara enter a dark car.]

MALE NEWSMAN (VO): Even grounding the President’s father, former President Bush, on a flight forced to land in Milwaukee.

[More stranded travelers.]

MALE NEWSMAN (VO): Thousands of travelers were stranded. [Ricky Martin.] Among them, Ricky Martin, due to appear at tonight’s Latin Grammy awards.

MOORE (VO): Not even Ricky Martin could fly. But really, who wanted to fly? [A dog walked by the police in an airport terminal.] No one. [Osama bin Laden.] Except the bin Ladens.

[A large plane takes off, apparently dodging missiles(???).]

SONG: We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do…

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND), Senate Subcommittee on Aviation: We had some airplanes authorized at the highest levels of our government to fly to pick up Osama bin Laden’s family members and others from Saudi Arabia and transport them out of this country.

[New York Times headline: White House Approved Departure of Saudis After Sept. 11]

MOORE (VO): It turns out that the White House approved planes to pick up the bin Ladens and numerous other Saudis. [Listing of flights to Saudi Arabia.] At least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes [Close Up: “SAUDIA ARABIA”] carried the Saudis and the bin Ladens out of the US after September 13th. [CU: Scan down long list of flights, focusing on the 9/13 date.] In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country.

[Osama bin Laden.]

CRAIG UNGER, Author, House of Bush, House of Saud: Osama’s always been portrayed as the bad apple, the black sheep of the family and that they’ve cut off all relationships with him around 1994. In fact, things are much more complicated than that.

MOORE (OS): You mean Osama has had contact with other family members?

[Osama bin Laden.]

UNGER: That’s right. In the summer of 2001 right before 9/11 one of Osama’s sons got married in Afghanistan and several family members showed up at the wedding.

MOORE (OS): bin Ladens.

UNGER: That’s right. So they’ve not cut off completely. That’s really an exaggeration.

LARRY KING: We now welcome to Larry King Live — good to see him again — Prince Bandar, the ambassador of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States.

PRINCE BANDAR: … We had about 24 members of bin Laden’s family. And, uh — in America. Students, and — And His Majesty thought it’s not fair for these innocent people to be subjected to any harm. On the other hand, we understood you had the high emotions. So, with the cooperation of the FBI, we got them all out.

[Jack Cloonan.]

MOORE (VO): This is retired FBI agent Jack Cloonan. Before 9/11, he was a senior agent on the joint FBI-CIA Al-Qaeda task force.

CLOONAN: Yes, an investigator would not want these people to have left. … I think in the case of the bin Laden family I think it would have been prudent: hand the subpoenas out, have them come in, get on the record. Get on the record.

MOORE (OS): That’s the proper procedure.

CLOONAN: Yeah. [FBI pushing someone into a car.] How many people were pulled by the airlines after that coming into the country who were what, coming from the Middle East or they fit a very general picture.

MOORE (OS): We held hundreds of…

CLOONAN: We have held hundreds…

MOORE (OS): …for weeks and months at a time.

[Craig Unger.]

MOORE (OS): Did we do anything when the bin Ladens tried to leave the country?

UNGER: No, they were identified at the airport. They were—they look at their passports and they were identified.

MOORE (OS): Well, that’s what would happen to you or I if we were leaving the country.

UNGER: Exactly. Exactly.

MOORE (OS): A little interview, check the passport, what else?

UNGER: Nothing.

posted June 30, 2004 02:43 PM (Politics) (17 comments) #


Justice Thomas and the Case-Dodgers
When can I keep an enemy combatant?
Why Ralph Runs
What is going on at the Supreme Court?
Four Myths About Politics
Fahrenheit 9/11 Transcript: The Saudi Flights
Stupid Criticisms of Fahrenheit 9/11
Fact Check
Web Development Restarts
Press Clipping
Hackers and Painters: How to Think Like a Computer Millionaire


Where in that transcript does it say what dates those flights were? It says “some days after” and “after 9/13” (while showing a picture of 9/13). What were the actual dates of the Saud/bin Laden departures?

posted by Ry4an at June 30, 2004 02:53 PM #

Completing the thought: One can see on Moore’s site when the flights actually were, but it’s very clear that absolutely everything possible short of saying so was done to get folks to think the flights were during the commerical shutdown. It’s stuff like that that makes it so hard to enjoy an otherwise entertaining Moore. I dislike Rush Limbaugh’s show not because I disagree with his politics, but because his presentation is borderline dishonest, pandering and I have having to think about my fellow humans who swallow the bullshit with greedy mouths. Moore leaves me feeling the same way. I like (most of) his politics, and I enjoy his lighter stuff, but when he plays fast and loose with perceptions of the truth I spend all my time looking around at my fellow audience members feeling sad that most of them are making the incorrect leaps to which he’s steered them.

posted by Ry4an at June 30, 2004 03:01 PM #

Here’s a complete transcript of the entire film in two parts, Part 1 and Part 2.

posted by Andy Baio at June 30, 2004 03:59 PM #

What is your point for printing the partial transcript? To spread political propaganda?

Isn’t it obvious that Michael Moore has an ax to grind and that his so-called documentary film is not really documentary in the truest sense? But then, resiting the temptation to be faultfinding may be too hard for the writer of the blog.

Joseph Pietro Riolo <riolo@voicenet.com>

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this comment in the public domain.

posted by Joseph Pietro Riolo at June 30, 2004 05:39 PM #

yes, i can fault him too for his presenting things in a way that leads you to think one way. however, this is the core of the republican propaganda machine… repeat the message until it becomes the “truth”… it’s kind of nice to see that ‘skill’ used from the other side of the spectrum.

however, whether or not he intentionally misled the audience, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the current administration panders to the saudi’s even tho they are as ‘guilty’ as any middle east country (using W’s own definition of evil, mind you).

i always take moore with a grain of salt. it’s more entertainment than education - but his movies are more meant to stir the emotions and get you fired up, than to give you ‘news’. in my opinion at least

posted by xenlab at July 1, 2004 12:32 AM #

Ry4an: The flights were on 9/13. The document Moore shows a closeup of is here; you can clearly see the flights are on 9/13. I put the transcript up so that people could see for themselves whether Moore was giving a false impression. I don’t think he was, and even so, it’s a tiny part of the film.

Have you seen the film? It bothers me that people like you are attacking the film without giving much of a reason. It seems like people bash Moore to be cool or to gain credibility. I don’t think that’s very fair to the film, or to Moore.

Riolo: As no less an expert than Roger Ebert has said “Most documentaries, especially the best ones, have an opinion and argue for it.” Do people throw out the New York Times because it has op-eds? The criticism is absurd. No one would mistake the film for straight reporting.

posted by Aaron Swartz at July 1, 2004 12:46 AM #

Ry4an: The flights were on 9/13. The document Moore shows a closeup of is here; you can clearly see the flights are on 9/13. I put the transcript up so that people could see for themselves whether Moore was giving a false impression. I don’t think he was, and even so, it’s a tiny part of the film.

But the point of my first comment was that the transcript used inexact language which could have had the flights be any time. Why does he say “after September 13th” when he could say “on September 13th”. It’s terms while sound precise but aren’t like that which set off snake oil alarms.

Have you seen the film? It bothers me that people like you are attacking the film without giving much of a reason. It seems like people bash Moore to be cool or to gain credibility. I don’t think that’s very fair to the film, or to Moore.

I have seen the film — I live in Minnesota; it’s practically required viewing here. I find it, and Moore’s other work back to TV Nation, wildly entertaining. The crticism I gave earlier, for which I did provide a reason, however, still stands. The reactions of the people around me during such a film make me uncomfortable in the same way that sitting through a religious ceremony does — all those unquestioning eyes give me the willies.

posted by Ry4an at July 1, 2004 01:02 AM #

Does Moore talk about the flight from Florida? The one whose entire existance was denied for over two years by the White House, amongst others, and was recently confirmed:

TIA now verifies flight of Saudis

posted by dave at July 1, 2004 09:13 AM #

Why does he say “after September 13th” when he could say “on September 13th”.

Because if you look at pages two and three, you’ll see there were additional flights in the days following. Moore’s way of saying all this (142 Saudis left after September 13th) is concise and accurate.

dave: No, that was released too late for the film.

posted by Aaron Swartz at July 1, 2004 11:59 AM #

If your point is to show that Democratic Party and Left are no different from Republican Party and Right in using propaganda, I can understand that.

If your point is to show that it is extremely difficult to be clean during politics, that politics involves dirty games, I can accept that.

If your point is to show that the current administration made mistakes, I can understand that. After all, each administration made mistakes.

If your point is to show the film as a classic example of “the ends justifying the means”, I can understand. Who has not used the ends to justify the means?

But if your point is to present the transcript as the truth that everyone should accept without question, if your point is to show the faults in the current administration to promote your own personal agenda and your personal ideology, if your point is to bring down the current administration by using Michael Moore’s film, then what happened to the principles that you eloquently outlined for rational analysis and criticism in http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/001117 and other blog items?

Regarding your statement saying that documentary film usually has an opinion, in that case, it is no longer documentary. It is not easy to be 100% objective but when there is so much subjective comments or views, so much omissions, so much out-of-contexts in the so-called documentary film, it is misleading to claim that it documentary when it is not.

The purpose of propaganda is to make an effect on people. Even if you are correct that nobody takes the film as straight reporting, people still can be driven by film to irrational decisions and actions. Such is the price of freedoms of speech and press.

Here, I forgot to give full disclosure. I have not seen the film. Does that mean that I am guilty of omission? I did not lie but I did not tell everything. Sounds like Moore’s film.

Joseph Pietro Riolo

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this comment in the public domain.

posted by Joseph Pietro Riolo at July 1, 2004 05:26 PM #

I still stand for rational analysis. I put the transcript up so that people could discuss it with accuracy.

I think you should see the film before you make judgments about it. It’s not what anyone expected.

posted by Aaron Swartz at July 1, 2004 10:03 PM #

I saw the movie, as I was invited to by a friend, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be in terms of his boisterousness, but it was worse than I thought it would be in terms of dishonesty.

For example, the Bin Laden family didn’t get flown around at all until after the flight ban had been partially lifted, and didn’t leave the country until a week later. Moore doesn’t mention either of these facts.

Moore makes a big deal about the idea that these people were not questioned, but that’s false. According to the 9/11 Commission, 22 of the 26 passengers on the Bin Ladin flight were questioned by the FBI before departure, and the Commission says:

“The FBI has concluded that nobody was allowed to depart on these six flights who the FBI wanted to interview in connection with the 9/11 attacks, or who the FBI later concluded had any involvement in those attacks. To date, we have uncovered no evidence to contradict this conclusion.”

He also doesn’t mention that Richard Clarke was the one who gave the OK for the Saudis to be flown out (it is mentioned in a blown-up picture of a newspaper article, and I doubt anyone noticed it, and surely most people would not), and that he stands by that decision. A few minutes earlier, Moore criticizes Bush for (supposedly) not listening to the Clarke — giving as his only reason why Bush should have listened as the fact that Clarke is an expert — and then Moore dismisses Clarke’s decision here. Which is it? Should we follow what Clarke says just because he is an expert, or not?

These are just a few of the many places Moore is intentionally deceptive in his movie. There are many more.

Aaron, you write: “No one would mistake the film for straight reporting.” Are you really that naive? I think most people who see it will take it for truth, and if not, certainly many will.

And I can’t agree with Ebert and Roeper and others who say, “no matter which side of the fence you fall down on in the war, you should see this movie.” I see no value in it, except to unreasonably attack Bush, and to serve as a rallying point for those who agree with Moore’s worldview. There’s nothing in the movie that can be trusted without significant further investigation on your own, so why not just investigate on your own and skip the movie?

I would not recommend the film to anyone, except to people who would need to know what’s in it as part of their job or studies (such as a political reporter or a student researching propaganda).

I actually thought the film was pretty boring — going on and on about irrelevancies like the Saudi flights and the vacations — and while it had a few moments where I did laugh or was entertained — the Bush “won’t get fooled again” thing, or the playing of the Greatest American Hero theme on the aircraft carrier — I mostly laughed when Moore said things I knew to be false (I wonder if the people around me, other than my friends, knew why I was laughing :-).

posted by pudge at July 4, 2004 06:02 PM #

As this transcript shows, Moore clearly states they didn’t fly until Sept. 13 (when airspace was partially opened). Moore’s point is not when the Saudis flew or not, it’s that they wanted to leave the country right away were allowed to by the White House. The transcript also shows that he said the Saudis had a little interview. He later stresses that they got nothing on the record.

Here’s what Clarke said under oath:

The request came to me, and I refused to approve it. I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it or not. I spoke with the at the time No. 2 person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue. The FBI then approved the flight.

That Richard Clarke routed the request to the FBI hardly seems like expert advice approving the flights.

There’s a difference between straight reporting and truth. Specifically, I meant nobody would think Moore was giving both sides of the argument. I’ve been following most of the anti-Moore stuff and I’ve only heard one minor error (which I still have yet to verify).

It seems odd that you don’t feel a Michael Moore film is worth watching, even though he relies solely on public sources which numerous people who are out to get him are attempting to verify, while at the same time you trust Bob Woodward, whose sources can’t be verified and who has been found to make things up.

posted by Aaron Swartz at July 6, 2004 11:46 AM #

As this transcript shows, Moore clearly states they didn’t fly until Sept. 13 (when airspace was partially opened).

But he has previously stated many times they flew before airspace was opened, and he made no effort here to disavow that erroneous statement, and doesn’t even tell us when the airspace was opened again, leaving people to continue to believe his previous lie.

The transcript also shows that he said the Saudis had a little interview.

Yes, without at all explaining what it was, and after already stating that the FBI did not do “anything” apart from identifying them at the airport, which implies the “little interview” was for identification purposes only. Don’t try to take things out of context.

Specifically, I meant nobody would think Moore was giving both sides of the argument.

That’s beside the point, since it assumes the clearly false view that everyone thinks the things he says would need another side, that any other side would even exist. Not only would everyone not see that, but I think most people would not.

It seems odd that you don’t feel a Michael Moore film is worth watching, even though he relies solely on public sources …

Are you that blind to what I am saying? It is not his evidence or proof that makes his films worthless, it is that he intentionally, repeatedly, twists his words with the intent to deceive. There’s no getting around this. It’s not reasonably questionable. He intentionally twists the truth to manipulate his viewer, over and over and over and over again.

posted by pudge at July 6, 2004 02:11 PM #

You all are obviously sticking to your views. Like Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”, everybody had a problem with the movie or the people that had a problem with the movie or the people that didn’t have a problem with the movie. Some pushed facts, some pushed their interpretations, some pushed interpretations of interpretations. Somewhere along the line, everybody was confused with everyone else’s claims. But popularity soared… I personally liked the movie in terms of its entertainment value and shock value. When you mix facts with entertainment (an agreeably subjectvie “documentary”), you’re bound to have heads rolling. I did not take the entire movie seriously, for I’m weary of other people’s opinions, which are variable and subjective and personal. But one thing that really irritates my morals is when people mess with facts. Facts in this movie may not be “facts” for others, for the government has messed with the facts itself too. Who do you believe?

posted by Lana at July 16, 2004 02:20 PM #

The issue is not whether the Saudis were permitted to FLY OUT of the United States before the air traffic reopened, but that they were permitted to FLY WITHIN the United States before air traffic reopened. That’s how they were able to assemble in order to leave. Don’t get caught in this rhetorical sleight-of-hand.

posted by Hugh at July 20, 2004 01:34 PM #

reality time. the hijackers were SAUDI ARABIAN. america goes to war against iraq, and afghanistan (which is basically a lunar landscape anyway after years of soviet fighting), but not saudi arabia. because saudi arabia has given america, and primarily the Bush family and their associates, an awful lot of money, in exchange for political favours, door-openings, etc.

this is the main crux of his film. moore IS disenguine in places, but his point on the Bush/Saudi connection is key. why argue about the planes? you can’t argue that Saudi Arabians were the cause of 9/11, yet Saudi Arabia is still America’s friend. give. me. an. answer. to. that.

the scariest thing in farenheit 9/11 is the trade show. “there’s a war, we’ll make a lot of money”. and the point that he makes, that if this war against terror in Iraq is so JUST and RIGHT and GODLY — would YOU go out there? or would you send your own kids to fight and die? i’m not a pacifist — i’ll fight for a war i believe in. Winston Churchill got a country to fight back against a totalitarian, enslaving, fascist regime. (Yawn: cue american jibes of ‘bailing europe out’. well, what was the alternative? work with a genocidalist? be friends with adolf?)

George Bush has simply kept some oil stocks ticking over, and taken them out of the hands of a loose cannon arab dictator. oh yeah — and remember the footage of donald rumsfeld shaking Saddam’s hand? i think that was real (albeit in the early 1980s, i’ll grant you)


was saddam coming to get america? no. where there WMDs? no. did iraq have anything to do with 9/11? no. conclusively proven in your american run 9/11 report. iraq. had. nothing. to. do. with. 9/11. Bush had a hard-on for Saddam, is all, and he sends shit poor 19 year olds from fly-over-states to die for this bullshit cause. hey, that’s democracy in action.

there’s some rubbish in moore’s film, of course — he’s essentially a propagandist for the left, rather than for the right (like all of Bush’s lot that got you got american voters to believe that somehow his iraq agenda was anti-terrorist when really it was all about oil and money)

hey — the saddam trial will be fun. he may well have very interesting things to say about Bush Snr, and the US Govt, and how they acted towards him when they were buddies pre about 1988…

did you know that saddam’s islamist sect, the sunni’s are the minority? and that the shia’s are the majority? to most americans — all of these nation is just, well “ay-rabs”. with saddam in charge — life sucked — but you could walk around without being blown up. (friendly fire from US forces anyone? that’s wasted A LOT of allied forces. trigger happy. too much firepower). all you had to do was say a few ‘hail saddam’s’ here and there. what is the alternative now? shia’s rise up and commit genocide against the sunni’s. the american ‘imposed’ govt won’t be able to stop it. so, bush makes a bigger mess than when he went in. and…. abu ghraib! too late for moore’s film. thank you, liberators! for making your liberated people into human pyramids, and photographing their sexual humilation. (yawn: cue: “those guys weren’t in for traffic offences buddy, they were hardended criminals” jibes — to which i’d say, how do YOU know what the prison inmates were in for?? you know as much as I do. and it looks to me as if they were abused by soldiers who think they’re all “ay-rabs”)

america is a shark in charge of the swimming pool. the country with the least knowledge (man in the street anyway) of the complexity of OTHER COUNTRY’S AFFAIRS (that’s theirs, not yours) is the most powerful country in the world. a bully. more troops, more firepower — but it doesn’t make it right.

this post will be deleted, but as I believe a popular american mantra states, “i believe in freedom of speech”.

posted by alan at September 1, 2004 05:48 PM #

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