Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor
In light of the recently observed 13th anniversary of the events on 9/11/01, I read an article this week that caught my eye. According to reports, there is a 28 page section of the 9/11 Commission report that has never been released publicly and remains secret to this day. Indeed, Congressmen must go through numerous security reviews before they can read the document in a secure room in Washington, D.C.
What kind of secret and clandestine information can be found in such a guarded document? Since it is top-secret, we can only go by the reviews of people who have read the report. What is found in that report may surprise you in light of its level of secrecy.
“On the bottom floor of the United States Capitol’s new underground visitors’ center, there is a secure room where the House Intelligence Committee maintains highly classified files. One of those files is titled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters.” It is twenty-eight pages long. In 2002, the Administration of George W. Bush excised those pages from the report of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. President Bush said then that publication of that section of the report would damage American intelligence operations, revealing “sources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror.”
“There’s nothing in it about national security,” Walter Jones, a Republican congressman from North Carolina who has read the missing pages, contends. “It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.” Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, told me that the document is “stunning in its clarity,” and that it offers direct evidence of complicity on the part of certain Saudi individuals and entities in Al Qaeda’s attack on America. “Those twenty-eight pages tell a story that has been completely removed from the 9/11 Report,” Lynch maintains. Another congressman who has read the document said that the evidence of Saudi government support for the 9/11 hijacking is “very disturbing,” and that “the real question is whether it was sanctioned at the royal-family level or beneath that, and whether these leads were followed through.” Now, in a rare example of bipartisanship, Jones and Lynch have co-sponsored a resolution requesting that the Obama Administration declassify the pages.” Readersupportednews
In the current political climate, any issue that has some bi-partisan support should be looked at more closely. If the accounts of Rep. Jones and Rep. Lynch are to believed, what would be the possible reasons why these 28 pages have not been fully declassified? In a town like Washington, D.C., it seems like it doesn’t take much to classify information and keep it from public dissemination. However, once something is classified, it often takes years and in many cases, decades to get the information into the American public’s hands. So, in one sense, Washington doesn’t need real reasons before it classifies documents.
As someone who has witnessed a military accident report kept classified for approximately 50 years, this 13 year period of time does not sound so bad. But when we find out that the report may have been classified to prevent embarrassment to the Saudi royal family and our Government, 13 years sounds like 12 years too long. Even the Saudi’s have called for the full release of the secret 28 pages.
“Twenty-eight blanked-out pages are being used by some to malign our country and our people,” Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was the Saudi Ambassador to the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks, has declared. “Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages.” RSN
According to Philip Zelikow, the Director of the 9/11 Commission Staff, the 28 pages were merely unvetted reports and accusations. “According to Zelikow, what they found does not substantiate the arguments made by the Joint Inquiry and by the 9/11 families in the lawsuit against the Saudis. He characterized the twenty-eight pages as “an agglomeration of preliminary, unvetted reports” concerning Saudi involvement. “They were wild accusations that needed to be checked out,” he said.
Zelikow and his staff were ultimately unable to prove any official Saudi complicity in the attacks. A former staff member of the 9/11 Commission who is intimately familiar with the material in the twenty-eight pages recommends against their declassification, warning that the release of inflammatory and speculative information could “ramp up passions” and damage U.S.-Saudi relations.” RSN
If indeed the information could ramp up passions, according to Mr. Zelikow, is that enough to keep it under top-secret wraps for 13 years? It could be argued that hiding the information from the public actually causes more problems than the ones that Mr. Zelikow is trying to avoid. Secrecy tends to fan the flames of conspiracy theorists. If the Saudi’s are calling for the information that is considered to be harmful to Saudi relations, why should the information still be hidden from public inspection?
Thomas Kean, the former Chairman of the 9/11 Commission has read the report and he does not understand why it is still kept secret. Of course, he also is confused why the interviews of Former President, Bill Clinton and then current President George W. Bush and his Vice President, Dick Cheney are also still kept secret.
“Thomas Kean remembers finally having the opportunity to read those twenty-eight pages after he became chairman of the 9/11 Commission—“so secret that I had to get all of my security clearances and go into the bowels of Congress with someone looking over my shoulder.” He also remembers thinking at the time that most of what he was reading should never have been kept secret. But the focus on the twenty-eight pages obscures the fact that many important documents are still classified—“a ton of stuff,” Kean told me, including, for instance, the 9/11 Commission’s interviews with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Bill Clinton. “I don’t know of a single thing in our report that should not be public after ten years,” Kean said.” RSN
When one remembers the turmoil and destruction and the emotional outpouring that were a result of the actions of the terrorists on 9/11, I can understand why the information was initially classified. However, after a year or two the citizens of this country deserved a full and complete record of what the 9/11 Commission did or did not find. A link to the “full” Commission report can be found here.
While there can be valid reasons for a government to classify information and hide it from its own citizens, that information needs to be disseminated as soon as possible. Thirteen years for information that may just “ramp up passions”, is not a valid time frame. This information and all of the information left out of the 9/11 Commission Report should be declassified as quickly as possible, with no redactions.
Any and all information that concerns one of the most important days in our country’s history should be in the people’s hands. Without it, a skeptical citizenry will make up its own mind and Washington, D.C. may not like their answer.
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