Saudi connection? Lawmakers up pressure on Obama to release secret 9/11 documents
Lawmakers and advocacy groups have pushed for the declassification for years. The effort already had bipartisan House support but now has the backing of retired Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, a former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman whom supporters hope will help garner enough congressional backing to pressure Obama into releasing the confidential information.
“The American people have been denied enough,” North Carolina GOP Rep. Walter Jones said on Capitol Hill. “It’s time for the truth to come out.”
Jones has led the effort with Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, among the few members of Congress who have read the 28 redacted pages of the joint House and Senate “Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terror Attacks,” initially classified by President George W. Bush. They introduced a new resolution on Wednesday urging Obama to declassify the pages.
Jones and other lawmakers have described the documents' contents as shocking.
That 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian citizens is already known. But Graham and the congressmen suggested the documents point to Saudi government ties and repeatedly said Wednesday that the U.S. continues to deny the truth about who principally financed the attacks -- covering up for Saudi Arabia, a wealthy Middle East ally.
'The Saudis know what they did'- Former Sen. Bob Graham
“The Saudis know what they did. We know what they did,” said Graham, who for more than a decade has pushed to get to the bottom of the attacks. He made clear he was referring to "the Kingdom," and not just Saudi operatives inside the country.
He argued that failing to disclose the truth will spur Saudi Arabia’s continued or “accelerated … financial support for institutions carrying out extreme forces of Islam.” Graham argued Saudi Arabia has been a hotbed for such extremist groups as Al Qaeda, al-Shabaab and now the Islamic State.
Lynch called Jones “relentless” in his efforts to publicize the pages and reveal the truth about Saudi Arabia’s connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including who financed the terrorists who hijacked and brought down four passenger jets, killing nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil.
“We're going to keep pushing,” Lynch said. “The release of this report will influence national security and foreign policy.”
When pressed by reporters, the lawmakers said they couldn’t and wouldn’t reveal the exact contents of the pages, as it remains classified. But they said the release of the information has the potential to change foreign policy and national security while posing no risk to U.S. intelligence agents or methods -- and Obama should make the details public.
Saudi officials have said they have nothing to hide and also have called for the declassification of the pages.
The press conference took place just hours after masked gunmen killed at least 12 people in Paris, at a publication that had mocked the Prophet Mohammed. Prince Khaled bin Bandar, the Saudi intelligence chief, also was in Washington this week to talk about joint efforts to fight ISIS.
Jones and Lynch last year submitted a House resolution on the document issue and filed another on Tuesday. They acknowledge the difficulty in getting sponsors for the release of a document few have seen but vowed to keep trying, in large part because of the families who lost relatives in the attacks.
“They are the reason we are here,” Lynch said.
The effort has garnered support from an array of advocacy groups including 28pages.org and 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism.
“We all know Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11,” said Terry Strada, a group co-chairwoman whose husband, Tom, died in the attacks. “But that is only half of the truth. The other half lies in the 28 pages.”