Since the early days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when news emerged that most of the airline hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, dark allegations have lingered about official Saudi ties to the terrorists. Fueling the suspicions: 28 still-classified pages in a congressional inquiry on 9/11 that raise questions about Saudi financial support to the hijackers in the United States prior to the attacks.
Both the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have refused to declassify the pages on grounds of national security. But critics, including members of Congress who have read the pages in the tightly guarded, underground room in the Capitol where they are held, say national security has nothing to do with it. U.S. officials, they charge, are trying to hide the double game that Saudi Arabia has long played with Washington, as both a close ally and petri dish for the world’s most toxic brand of Islamic extremism.
One of the most prominent critics is former Florida Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat who co-chaired the joint investigation of the House and Senate intelligence committees into the Sept. 11 attacks. On Wednesday, in a press conference with two current members of Congress and representatives of families who lost loved ones in the attacks, he will once again urge the Obama administration to declassify the pages—a move the White House has previously rebuffed.
“There are a lot of rocks out there that have been purposefully tamped down, that if were they turned over, would give us a more expansive view of the Saudi role” in assisting the 9/11 hijackers, Graham said in an interview. He maintains that nothing in them qualifies as a legitimate national security secret.
Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican who has also read the pages, agrees. “There is no reason the 28 pages have not been made public,” Jones told Newsweek. “It’s not a national security issue.” Parts of it, however, Jones said, will be “somewhat embarrassing for the Bush administration,” because of “certain relationships with the Saudis.”
In July, the two co-chairman of a separate inquiry, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, likewise urged the White House to declassify the 28 pages.