By Brian McGlinchey
Americans have grown accustomed to broken promises from politicians. And yet, some lapses are so striking that they can muster indignation from even the most jaded political observer. Case in point: President Obama’s personal assurances to 9/11 family members—on two separate occasions—that he would declassify a 28-page finding on foreign government support of the hijackers.
“I will get them released”
It’s one thing to neglect a broad policy promise made in the heat of an election, and another thing altogether to renege on a personal commitment to 9/11 family members—but that’s precisely what Obama is doing, based on accounts provided by Kristen Breitweiser and Bill Doyle, who each lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.
Breitweiser—whose husband, Ronald Breitweiser, worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center and was the father of a then-two-year old girl—told the Philadelphia Inquirer Obama’s assurance to her came at a meeting with 9/11 survivors at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in February 2009, just weeks after he’d taken office:
“We had opportunities to raise our hands and ask questions, and I asked him whether he would be interested in releasing the 28 pages, because for years we had been trying to get President Bush to do it,” said Breitweiser…
Obama “said absolutely, I don’t see why not. The bottom line is he agreed to do it, and he gave me and the rest of the world his promise,” Breitweiser said.
Had that been Obama’s only statement on the issue, one might be tempted to dismiss it as a careless comment by a new president caught off-guard, one who may have changed his mind upon reading the 28 pages himself. However, Bill Doyle—whose 25-year old son, Joe Doyle, was killed in the World Trade Center’s North Tower—says Obama gave him an even more pointed commitment more than two years later. Again, from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Bill Doyle’s recollection of his chat with President Obama remains crystal clear. To mark bin Laden’s demise, Obama had laid a wreath at the former site of the World Trade Center on May 5, 2011, and met later in the day with families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at a reception near ground zero.
The president stopped at Doyle’s table midway through the event, and Doyle asked when the government would make public portions of a congressional investigation that weighed evidence that Saudi Arabia provided support to the 9/11 hijackers.
“He said, ‘Bill, I will get them released,’ ” Doyle recalled.
Declassifying the 28 Pages: Well Within President’s Power
Some presidential promises require a cooperative Congress, but this isn’t one of them. To honor his commitment, Obama doesn’t need to line up votes—all that’s required is a single stroke of his presidential pen. Given his previous warnings to Congress that he’s willing to use that same pen in ways that are constitutionally controversial, it’s particularly jarring that he would fail to act in this situation, where his authority is unquestioned.
The families of September 11 victims and their fellow citizens deserve to know what the U.S. government has learned about who enabled the 9/11 attacks—and what the CIA, FBI and other agencies did with the intelligence they had before that day. An increasingly wide variety of present and former government officials agree, including the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and the Republican and Democratic co-sponsors of House Resolution 428, which urges the President to declassify the 28 pages.
According to Rep. Thomas Massie—who read the 28 pages and described the experience as “disturbing”—declassifying the redacted finding wouldn’t jeopardize national security, but would trigger “anger, frustration and embarrassment.” If so, it appears Obama’s decision about declassifying the 28 pages values his own convenience more than his personal pledges to those most profoundly affected by 9/11.
28Pages.org is committed to bringing the redacted intelligence finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers to light. Add your own voice to the growing, bipartisan movement to declassify the 28 pages today. Call the White House and ask President Obama to honor his commitment. Then call your House representative and urge them to cosponsor H.Res.14—our handy guide makes it easy.