Fox News reports that President Obama will make a decision on declassifying 28 pages of sealed 9/11 documents — considered by both the Obama and Bush administrations as potentially threatening to national security — within 60 days.
The word comes from former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who wants the documents made public and said he was “pleased that after two years this matter is about to come to a decision by the president.”
Another Democratic Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, has said the documents should at least be made available to the family members of 9/11 victims. Over in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also supports declassification, while portraying their classification as a Bush administration “mistake.”
The reason this handful of pages is so sensitive, according to nearly everyone on both sides of the aisle who wants them unsealed, is that they reveal Saudi Arabian support for the 9/11 hijackers, including high-ranking officials and members of the royal family.
“Graham has said in the past the 28 classified pages lay out a network of people he believes helped the hijackers obtain housing in the U.S. and enroll in flight school,” Fox News writes, citing comments from Graham that bluntly include Saudi government officials and wealthy donors in the scheme.
“I don’t know how the Saudi government will react to it, but I think it’s just information,” Gillibrand said on Sunday.
CBS News aired a 60 Minutes segment on the “28 Pages” Sunday that went into detail on the network Graham mentioned, including comments from the handful of people who have read the classified pages. Former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Graham, who is one of those people, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the amount of material that was censored from the official 9/11 report.
Former Republican congressman Porter Goss, who co-chaired the House side of the joint inquiry into the September 11 attacks and was later CIA director, told 60 Minutes he was never given a good reason why the 28 pages had to be kept secret.
It is noted in the CBS report that Saudi Arabia’s claims of having been exonerated from involvement in the 9/11 attacks are based almost entirely on a single sentence in the official report: “We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
Advocates of declassifying the 28 pages say they will reveal this seemingly categorical statement as misleading, because support for al-Qaeda was routed through lower-level officials, and too many questions about the involvement of Saudi figures in the 9/11 attack remain unanswered.
As for Senator Gillibrand’s question about how the Saudis would respond to unsealing these documents, the answer is probably “not well.”
As they deal with ISIS threats, their involvement in the Yemeni civil war, an economic slowdown, and the need to develop a Sunni counterpart to aspiring nuclear hegemon Iran, the Saudis will not like having the 9/11 wound rubbed raw again, particularly on the eve of a scheduled visit from President Obama.
“If the president is going to meet with the Saudi Arabian leadership and the royal family, they think it would be appropriate that this document be released before the president makes that trip, so that they can talk about whatever issues are in that document,” Gillibrand suggested.
The UK Daily Mail delivers the curious detail that White House spokesman Josh Earnest claimed he did not know if President Obama had personally reviewed the 28 pages yet. It seems rather improbable that he would not have read them yet, although the 60 Minutes segment noted that accessing the heavily protected files is extremely difficult, even for duly authorized individuals.