What a difference eleven years makes:
- Today, Congressmen Walter Jones and Stephen Lynch are laboring to win a Senate ally or two to join them in pressing for the release of the classified, 28-page finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers.
- In 2003, no fewer than 46 senators signed a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to reverse his decision to classify those pages, which constituted an entire section of the report of the joint Congressional inquiry into 9/11.
The 2003 letter-signing effort was led by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who persuaded 43 of fellow Democrats to join him, along with Republican Sam Brownback and independent Jim Jeffords. (For a complete list of signers, see below.)
If just five more senators had stood up for 9/11 transparency, the Senate would have had the 51 votes needed to declassify the 28 pages by itself, even over Bush’s objection.
Speaking forcefully at the time, Schumer said, “The bottom line is that keeping this material classified only strengthens the theory that some in the U.S. government are hellbent on covering up for the Saudis. If we’re going to take terrorism down, that kind of behavior has got to be nipped in the bud and shedding some light on these 28 pages would start that process.”
Senators: Secrecy Prevents Public Penalty for Supporting Terror
In part, the August 1, 2003 letter to Bush read:
“According to the Joint Inquiry report, the content of the redacted pages detail ‘specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11th hijackers while they were in the United States.’ Unfortunately, because all but two pages of the entire section have been deemed too secret for public disclosure, the American people remain in the dark about other countries that may have facilitated the terrorist attacks.
It has been widely reported in the press that the foreign sources referred to in this portion of the Joint Inquiry analysis reside primarily in Saudi Arabia. The decision to classify this information sends the wrong message to the American people about our nation’s anti-terror effort and makes it seem as if there will be no penalty for foreign abettors of the hijackers…Protecting the Saudi regime by eliminating any public penalty for the support given to terrorists from within its borders would be a mistake.”
The letter is more than a study in history: As Congressmen Jones and Lynch scour the Senate for counterparts willing to introduce a resolution similar to their own HRes 428—which urges the president to declassify the 28 pages—those who signed the 2003 letter would seem to be prime candidates.
When the new Senate convenes in January, 12 of those 46 signatories will still be in office, all Democrats. In order of seniority, they are: Patrick Leahy (VT), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Harry Reid (NV), Barbara Boxer (CA), Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Dick Durbin (IL), Jack Reed (RI), Chuck Schumer (NY), Bill Nelson (FL), Tom Carper (DE) and Maria Cantwell (WA).
The 2003 Letter: A Matter of Principle…or Party?
Given his leadership on the issue in 2003, one would expect Schumer to be more than happy to introduce a non-binding Senate resolution pressing Obama to release the 28 pages. However, despite his history on the issue and his current sponsorship of legislation that would clear the path for lawsuits against state sponsors of 9/11 terror, Schumer has yet to join forces with Jones, Lynch and other House supporters of 28-pages transparency.
Schumer’s silence on the 28 pages prompts a question: Is he reluctant to publicly hold a Democratic president to the same standard he once held a Republican one? If so, he should note that party lines aren’t evident in the House’s drive to declassify the 28 pages—the list of cosponsors of HRes 428 is a near-perfect split of Democrats and Republicans.
The question of principled consistency among the signers of the 2003 letter is underscored in a different way by the presence of three notable signatures: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry—Obama’s vice president and his past and present secretaries of state—each urged Bush to release the 28 pages.
And yet, despite the claimed convictions of three of his administration’s most senior officials and the fact that Obama himself reportedly assured 9/11 family members that he’d release the 28 pages, he continues to guard whatever secrets the Bush administration wanted buried.
Complete List of Signatories
28Pages.org obtained a copy of the 2003 letter, but we couldn’t find an authoritative list of the signers—so we built one ourselves. Some of the signatures are easy to read, but deciphering the rest required cross-referencing a list of who was in the Senate in 2003 and then comparing the signatures on the letter to known samples posted in various places on the web. Here’s the full list, organized as they are on the letter.
- First Page: Charles Schumer, Sam Brownback
- Second Page, Left Column: Jon Corzine, Maria Cantwell, Harry Reid, Max Baucus, Ron Wyden, Russ Feingold, Mary Landrieu, Jack Reed, Patty Murray
- Second Page, Right Column: Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman, Mark Dayton, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Carl Levin, Tom Carper, Byron Dorgan, Bill Nelson
- Third Page, Left Column: Daniel Akaka, Bob Graham, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Jim Jeffords, Barbara Mikulski, Tim Johnson, Jeff Bingaman, Evan Bayh
- Third Page, Right Column: Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Ben Nelson, Fritz Hollings, Paul Sarbanes, Debbie Stabenow, John Breaux, Blanche Lincoln
- Last Page: Hillary Clinton, Mark Pryor, John Edwards, Herb Kohl, Daniel Inouye, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Robert Byrd
The only four Democrats who did not sign the letter were Dianne Feinstein, Jay Rockefeller, Zell Miller and Kent Conrad. Republicans Richard Shelby and Olympia Snowe had previously supported the declassification of the 28 pages but did not sign the letter.