Next Tuesday, April 8, one of the funniest writers in the country will lend his wit and signature in a benefit for an organization that is anything but funny. The Miami Herald’s Dave Barry will be the star at a reception and book signing at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. His new book is You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty. The fundraiser will benefit Broward Bulldog, the independent investigative news group headed by Dan Christensen.
Christensen is a former Miami Herald reporter, who saw newspapers cut their staffs four years ago, and in the process lose some of their investigative ability. He decided to fill that void and has been supported by a number of prominent ex-newsmen. His board of directors includes Gene Cryer (Sun-Sentinel), Doug Clifton (The Miami Herald) and Kevin Boyd (all of the above, plus the long gone Hollywood Sun-Tattler). And the editorial contributors are all experienced and trusted reporters. Financial support comes from contributions, notably by popular crime novelist Michael Connelly, a former Sun-Sentinel reporter.
Broward Bulldog has more than fulfilled its stated mission: “We believe journalism is a public service that is essential to a free and democratic society. We are committed to bridging the gap by delivering more of the original, local, issue-oriented news and information our community needs.”
Much of Broward Bulldog’s content is online, but some stories are important enough to be picked up by major papers. Just recently, for example, was the report that Gov. Rick Scott’s “blind trust” can see pretty well. Although it is designed to detach a public figure from his or her investments, it was reported that Scott’s trust is run by a former crony and that Scott has made millions during his term as governor.
An even more recent example is today’s news that U.S. District Judge William Zloch of Fort Lauderdale ruled yesterday against the FBI’s attempt to throw out a lawsuit filed by Broward Bulldog and others seeking the bureau’s records on a mysterious Saudi figure who left the country in a great hurry shortly before Sept. 11.
This is a story that reaches far beyond the Broward borders. It was originally broken in 2011 by Christensen and Anthony Summers, an Irish reporter whose work includes a much admired book on the Kennedy assassination. They discovered that the highly connected Saudi man was visited at his Sarasota area home by some of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Just before the World Trade Center attack, he and his family left Sarasota in such a hurry that they left behind cars and household furnishings. Initially, the FBI denied having any pertinent information on the Saudi man, but after Broward Bulldog’s Freedom of Information lawsuit, it produced documents showing the opposite. The documents revealed numerous contacts between the Saudi and the terrorists. But pages were excised or blacked out.
This greatly disturbed former governor and senator Bob Graham, co-chair of the Sept. 11 Commission, who accused the FBI of impeding the commission’s investigation by withholding such important information – information that established a link between the Saudi Arabian government and the terrorists.
This is investigative reporting at its best and next week a very funny guy will help keep it going.