9/11 families pressure Biden to declassify Saudi documents

August 7, 2021 - 22:13

Family members of victims of September 11, 2001, attacks have called on President Joe Biden to stay away from memorial events next month unless he upholds his pledge to declassify U.S. government evidence that is widely believed to show a role played by Saudi Arabian leaders in the attacks.

The victims’ family members along with first responders and survivors called on Biden to skip 20th-anniversary events if he does not release the documents, which they say implicate Saudi officials in supporting the acts of terrorism. 

The group says during the Presidential election campaign, Biden pledged to be more transparent and declassify as much information as possible. 
However, they say, now, since taking office, the Biden White House has ignored their letters and attempts to communicate with the administration. 

They also expressed anger saying “we had great hope that President Biden, who campaigned on bringing truth and trust back to the Oval Office, would value the lives and sacrifices of America’s citizens over diplomatic relations with a country accused of mass murder” 

In a statement, the group wrote that “we cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment” 

This will no doubt be embarrassing for the American President; something he would want to avoid. 

The statement adds that “since the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission in 2004 much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attack…Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks.”

According to the statement, Biden is being urged to implement two key issues. 

1) Authorize the release of all documents and information to the 9/11 community that our government has accrued in its investigation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (and which former FBI agents have sworn establishes the Kingdom's role in 9/11) to allow us to rightfully obtain justice against the Kingdom. 

2) Implement a policy toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that makes clear it must acknowledge its role in terrorist attacks against our citizens and residents, which in the last 20 years include not just 9/11 but the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the murder of U.S. service members in Pensacola, Florida; and, accordingly, immediately cease the Kingdom’s support for acts of terrorism.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez, has weighed in on the debate saying “If the United States government is sitting on any documents that may implicate Saudi Arabia in the events of 9/11, these families and the American people have a right to know”

Speaking at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol he added “These families want answers. They want justice. They want accountability…you can’t make your case in court if you don’t have the facts and information to make their case” 

Furthermore, a group of influential U.S. senators have also announced support for a bill that would push the Justice Department, the CIA and Director of National Intelligence to release additional information.

Among the many documents, the family victims seek to be made public are supporting evidence found during a widespread FBI investigation into the attacks, completed in 2016, that examined Saudi Arabian involvement.

The co-signers, along with another group of victims’ relatives (who have already filed a federal lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s alleged complicity say “we are frustrated, tired and saddened with the fact that the U.S. government for 20 years has chosen to keep information about the death of our loved ones behind lock and key” 

In 2004, the 9/11 Commission found that Saudi Arabia had been “problematically” particularly when it came to sharing intelligence.

In a report, it said the Saudi government “as an institution or as individual senior officials’ lack of awareness and a failure to conduct oversight over institutions created an environment in which such (al-Qaeda) activity has flourished” 

It identified Saudi-based “charity groups” as a major source of funding for the al-Qaeda terror group. 

The 2004 commission concluded it "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or as individual senior officials knowingly support or supported al-Qaeda,"

The Saudi monarchy has also denied any connection to the attacks.

However, family members of 9/11 say they are convinced that senior leaders in the Saudi monarchy knew about the planned attack and did nothing to stop it.

Since the commission ended its investigation, the families say "much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks."

In the family’s lawsuit, they note, in an affidavit, that “based on evidence we gathered during the course of our investigation, concluded that diplomatic and intelligence personnel of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia knowingly provided material support to the two 9/11 hijackers and facilitated the 9/11 plot… our investigation shared that conclusion” 

Since the attacks, three consecutive administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump also declined to declassify the supporting documents. All three cited “national security concerns”. 

In 2019, to justify keeping documents out of public sight, the Trump administration invoked the state secrets privilege.

The group wrote “twenty years later, there is simply no reason - unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise - to keep this information secret” 

It added “But if President Biden reneges on his commitment and sides with the Saudi government, we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11.”

In an interview one member said “The buck stops at the president.”

U.S. media citing a Biden administration source, familiar with the matter, saying the Justice Department is expected to begin a review of the documents to determine whether any can be released. 

The source added “the review will include documents in which states secrets or law enforcement privilege has been cited as grounds for keeping the information classified”

Despite the calls for a quick release of the secret documents, analysts note it is unlikely to be completed before the 20th anniversary of the attacks this year.

The group says previous administrations had also promised reviews only to use them as "delay tactics to protect the Saudi government and keep the American people in the dark."

They argue "the promise of a review is simply not enough; our expectation is that we will begin to receive the information we seek before the 20th anniversary."

The 9/11 community members have been “ignored” by the attorney general, the FBI and other senior officials in the administration. They say Biden “really needs to be the one to step up and take action” adding that the families hope for a day when the president is “working with us and not against us.”

As a 2020 presidential candidate, Biden expressed support for the 9/11 families' search for "full truth and accountability" regarding the attacks and said he would direct his attorney general to “personally examine the merits of all cases where the invocation of privilege is recommended and to err on the side of disclosure in cases where, as here, the events in question occurred two decades or longer ago.”

The group says it believes the United States is not releasing the documents because of strong diplomatic and military ties between Washington and Riyadh.

The family members and survivors say the FBI's investigation that wrapped up in 2016, showed support provided by Saudi officials for the attackers. 

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is being sued for billions of dollars by the families of some 2,500 of those killed, and by more than 20,000 others who sustained injuries, businesses and different insurance companies. 

The United States used the attack as a pretext to launch its so-called war on terror. 

This led to a catastrophic U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Two countries, which many experts say had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

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