Since the early days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when news emerged that most of the airline hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, dark allegations have lingered about official Saudi ties to the terrorists. Fueling the suspicions: 28 still-classified pages in a congressional inquiry on 9/11 that raise questions about Saudi financial support to the hijackers in the United States prior to the attacks.
Both the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have refused to declassify the pages on grounds of national security. But critics, including members of Congress who have read the pages in the tightly guarded, underground room in the Capitol where they are held, say national security has nothing to do with it. U.S. officials, they charge, are trying to hide the double game that Saudi Arabia has long played with Washington, as both a close ally and petri dish for the world’s most toxic brand of Islamic extremism.
One of the most prominent critics is former Florida Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat who co-chaired the joint investigation of the House and Senate intelligence committees into the Sept. 11 attacks. On Wednesday, in a press conference with two current members of Congress and representatives of families who lost loved ones in the attacks, he will once again urge the Obama administration to declassify the pages—a move the White House has previously rebuffed.
“There are a lot of rocks out there that have been purposefully tamped down, that if were they turned over, would give us a more expansive view of the Saudi role” in assisting the 9/11 hijackers, Graham said in an interview. He maintains that nothing in them qualifies as a legitimate national security secret.
Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican who has also read the pages, agrees. “There is no reason the 28 pages have not been made public,” Jones told Newsweek. “It’s not a national security issue.” Parts of it, however, Jones said, will be “somewhat embarrassing for the Bush administration,” because of “certain relationships with the Saudis.”
In July, the two co-chairman of a separate inquiry, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, likewise urged the White House to declassify the 28 pages.
According to Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Saudi officials “knew that people who had a mission for Osama bin Laden were in, or would soon be placed in, the United States. Whether they knew what their assignments were takes the inference too far.”
The 2002 joint congressional committee probe he co-chaired reported only that, “contacts in the United States helped hijackers find housing, open bank accounts, obtain drivers licenses, locate flight schools, and facilitate transactions.”
But in an interview with Newsweek, Graham said “the contacts” were Saudis with close connections to their government. “I think that in a very tightly controlled institution like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, activities that would be potentially negative to its relationship with its closest ally, the United States, would not have been made at any but the highest levels,” he said.
The Florida Democrat charged that there has been “an organized effort to suppress information” about Saudi support for terrorism, which “started long before 9/11 and continued to the period immediately after 9/11” and continues today.
“I don’t think that anyone in any agency, whether it was the CIA or FBI or others, made the decision to do this,” Graham added, referring to the decision to classify the pages. “I think it was a decision made at the White House and the executive agencies that were responsible to the White House were told to keep this under rocks.”
The Obama administration has also kept the 28 pages under lock and key. President Obama ignored an April 14 letter from Jones and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Ma), requesting that the documents be declassified. Two months later, they received a response from the director of national intelligence’s legislative liaison promising “a coordinated response on behalf of the President,” which never came. A White House spokesperson told Newsweek on Monday it would have no further comment.
Full article: The Saudi Role in Sept. 11 and the Hidden 9/11 Report Pages (Newsweek)