Hard on the heels of President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia, CIA Director John Brennan appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to denounce the controversial “28 pages” of the 9/11 report as “uncorroborated” and “unvetted,” and he warned that releasing them would lead “some people” to reach “very inaccurate” conclusions.
The pages in question are the subject of much controversy, as they allegedly demonstrate a significant amount of support from Saudi officials for the 9/11 hijackers. The Saudi government has threatened economic warfare against the United States if the pages are made public.
Quite a few people who have seen the pages have encouraged releasing them to the American public, notably including former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who has professed himself “deeply disturbed” by the amount of material kept out of the official 9/11 report.
NBC’s Chuck Todd noted that Graham was a guest on his show the previous week, calling for declassification of the 28 pages. When he asked for the case against releasing them, Brennan replied that he was “quite puzzled” by Graham’s position, because the redacted chapter was “kept out because of concerns about sensitive source of methods, investigative actions.”
Brennan said the missing pages were merely intended to “tee up issues that were followed up on by the 9/11 Commission, as well as the 9/11 Review Commission.” He claimed those issues were later “thoroughly investigated and reviewed” by the commissions in question.
In Brennan’s opinion, the classified pages contain “a combination of things that is accurate and inaccurate,” essentially arguing that the 9/11 Commission weeded out the inaccurate material for its final report.
“They came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that indicated that the Saudi government as an institution, or Saudi officials individually, had provided financial support to al-Qaeda,” Brennan declared.
He worried that “some people may seize upon that uncorroborated, unvetted information that was in there, that was basically just a collation of this information that came out of FBI files, and to point to Saudi involvement, which I think would be very, very inaccurate.”
Considering how many Democrats have joined Graham to urge releasing the 28 pages –- including current Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi –- this is a remarkably aggressive dismissal from the CIA Director. Surely Graham, the former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would know if the documents he wants to declassify contain wildly inaccurate information that could wantonly damage the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
As Fox News notes, President George W. Bush made the same argument that Brennan offers now for keeping the pages secret to protect intelligence sources and methods, but that is a more difficult argument to sustain 13 years later. It is also presumably an argument that would have been considered by Graham before he called for declassification.
Fox News notes that 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 clear and credible manner.’”
That might be what they say in public, but evidently their private conversations with President Obama and his administration take a rather different position, as the U.S. Congress considers legislation that would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi entities for supporting al-Qaeda.