By Brian McGlinchey
The growing, nonpartisan drive to declassify a 28-page finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers is about to take an enormous step forward with the introduction of a Senate bill urging the president to release the material to the public.
Dramatically compounding the issue’s visibility, the bill is being introduced by high-profile Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul of Kentucky.
A spokesperson for Senator Paul told 28Pages.org that Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden will cosponsor the bill, which will serve as the upper chamber’s counterpart to House Resolution 14. Wyden is a member of the Senate intelligence committee.
Paul will unveil the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims Act at a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday, June 2 at 10:00 am, joined by Representatives Walter Jones (R, NC), Stephen Lynch (D, MA), Thomas Massie (R, KY) and former Democratic Senator Bob Graham.
Jones, Lynch and Massie introduced H.Res.14 and have been championing the issue—and seeking like-minded senators to lead the cause in the upper chamber—since December 2013.
Aided by Graham, who co-chaired the joint congressional 9/11 inquiry that wrote the 28 pages as one chapter in a far larger report, their success in securing the leadership of Paul and Wyden represents a critical milestone for the 28 pages movement.
As Paul and Wyden seek cosponsors for the bill, there are 11 senators whose support should—on principle, if not politics—be automatic: Patrick Leahy (VT), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Harry Reid (NV), Barbara Boxer (CA), Patty Murray (WA), Dick Durbin (IL), Jack Reed (RI), Chuck Schumer (NY), Bill Nelson (FL), Tom Carper (DE) and Maria Cantwell (WA). What do these 11 Democrats have in common? Months after the December 2002 release of the congressional intelligence report that holds the 28 pages, each of them signed a 2003 letter to President George W. Bush protesting his decision to redact the 28 pages and urging him to release them. In part, that letter read:
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.
Among those 11 natural candidates to join the Paul-Wyden bill, one stands out: Schumer led the 2003 letter-writing effort. At the time, he 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.”
The 28 Pages and the Ongoing Scourge of Terrorism
Calling the bill the “Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims Act” is an important acknowledgement that 9/11 family members deserve to know the full circumstances of their loved ones’ murders—and to access information that could be useful in lawsuits they’ve filed against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Then again—given the broad impact of 9/11 and the ensuing “War on Terror,” 9/11 transparency is truly owed to every American citizen and to people all around the world. Former Senator Graham and House leaders of the 28 pages movement who’ve read the 28 pages argue that their release is vital to the ongoing struggle with terrorism.
According to Graham, “the 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier.” He has also said the U.S. government’s shielding of Saudi Arabia’s role in funding extremism helped pave the way for the rise of ISIS. The House’s Lynch made a similar point in a 2014 story written by the Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender:
(Lynch) believes the information has direct bearing on the new war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other militant Sunni Muslim groups that are believed to be drawing some of their funding from the same Arab states that America considers key allies. The revelations are central to understanding “the web of intrigue here and the treacherous nature of the parties we are dealing with — the terrorists and their supporters,” Lynch said in an interview.
Kentucky Republican congressman Thomas Massie, in a memorable 2014 press conference, described the experience of reading the 28 pages as “shocking” and said “I had to stop every couple of pages and…try to rearrange my understanding of history…It challenges you to rethink everything.” (Watch it here.)
9/11 family members say President Obama, on two different occasions, gave assurances that he would release the 28 pages. Last September, responding to a report on the 28 pages by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the White House’s National Security spokesperson said, “Earlier this summer the White House requested that (the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) review the 28 pages from the joint inquiry for declassification. ODNI is currently coordinating the required interagency review and it is ongoing.”
It takes the average adult about 28 minutes to read 28 pages, but more than 8 months after the White House statement—and almost 14 years since the September 11 attacks—the pages remain under close guard in the basement of the United States Capitol. Brian McGlinchey is the founder and director of 28Pages.org