The Obama administration will probably release part of a 28-page secret chapter from a congressional inquiry into 9/11 that may shed light on possible Saudi connections to the attackers. Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of that panel that is bipartisan, and others say the finger of suspicion points to the Saudis. President Barack Obama has hinted the government might shortly release part of the documents, noting that national director of intelligence, James Clapper, has been reviewing the classified pages.
The disclosure would come at a time when relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been strained.
“I hope that decision will be to honor the American people and ensure it is accessible,” Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “The most significant unanswered question of 9/11 is, did these 19 individuals run this really sophisticated plot alone or were they supported?”
“There were hints. There were allegations. There were witness reports. There was evidence about the hijackers, about people they met with — all kinds of different things that the 9/11 Commission was then tasked with reviewing and investigating,” the former Democratic congressman from Indiana said Friday.
he Saudi government says it has been “wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity” in the attacks, is fighting extremists and working to clamp down on their financing routes. However, the Saudis have long said that they would welcome declassification of the 28 pages because it would “allow us to respond to any allegations in a definite and credible fashion.”
The pages were withheld from the 838-page report on the orders of President George W. Bush, who said the release could divulge intelligence sources and methods. However, protecting U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relations also was considered to have been a variable.
About the Clapper review, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said: “when that is done we’d expect that there’ll be some amount of declassification that provides more advice.”
15 of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia
Neither the congressional inquiry nor the succeeding 9/11 Commission found any evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials knowingly those who orchestrated the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 individuals. But the relatives of some lawmakers and casualties, Graham, think there is a reason for an additional probe to locate possible Saudi connections.
oemer said many questions remain about the jobs of Fahad al Thumairy, an official at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles who supposedly helped after they arrived in Southern California two of the hijackers find transportation and home. After the State Department alleged that he might be involved in terrorist activity Al Thumairy was later denied entrance into America in May 2003. Roemer also wants to know more and was alleged to have been helpful to the hijackers.
“We failed to find … Saudi government involvement at the maximum degree of the 9/11 assaults,” Roemer said. But he added: “We certainly did not exonerate the Saudis. … Saudi was a rich soil for fundraising for al-Qaida. Many of these issues continue to be difficulties now. That’s why we must continue to get to the bottom with this.”
An Internet site pushing to get the files released, 28pages.org, points to another record declassified in July 2015 that outlined ways in which the commission could examine possible Saudi links.
That 47-page document lists several pages of individuals of interest and suggests questions which could be pursued. One name is suspected al-Qaida operative Ghassan al Sharbi.
Al Sharbi, who was taking flight lessons in the Phoenix region before 9/11, was caught in 2002 in the same location in Pakistan as Abu Zubaydah, a top al-Qaida trainer who was apprehended and waterboarded dozens of times by U.S. interrogators.
he record said that after al Sharbi was captured, the FBI found some records buried nearby. One was al Sharbi’s pilot certification inside an envelope from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, although it is unclear whether the permit had been mailed by the embassy or if the envelope was merely being reused.
But it said additionally that folks in the CIA’s Near East Division and Counterterrorism Center “speculated that dissident sympathizers within the authorities may have assisted al-Qaida.” The remaining chapter, titled “Problems Related to Saudi Arabia,” is blacked out.
A bill directing the president to release the 28-page chapter was introduced in the Senate, and Democrats and nearly three dozen Republicans in the House are backing a similar resolution.
Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., wrote Obama last week saying they don’t think releasing the chapter will hurt national security and could provide resolution for the victims’ families.
“As is frequently the case, the reality is less dangerous as opposed to uncertainty,” he said.