Prospective presidential contender Chris Christie routinely accuses rivals of having “9/11 amnesia,” but is at peace with the fact that the vast majority of Congress is in a state of willful ignorance about indications of foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers found in 28 classified pages of a 2002 congressional report.
At a Monday town hall in Goffstown, New Hampshire, a member of the audience provided a detailed overview of the 28 pages and why there’s a growing movement to declassify them.
She concluded by noting the fact that very few members of Congress have read them and asked the New Jersey governor if he felt people making life-and-death decisions should spend a half hour reading what Congressman Thomas Massie recently called “some of the best intelligence we have” in the war on terror.
“Different people in Congress are interested in different things,” said Christie. “If they have an interest, they should go and they should read it. I don’t know why they wouldn’t have an interest, but I’m not going to sit here and dictate to people what they spend their time on.” (Watch the full exchange on the embedded video below.)
It was quite a display of casual ambivalence from a politician who—like any other—routinely prescribes actions that others in government should take on countless issues, including many where human lives don’t hang in the balance.
When asked if the 28 pages should be declassified, Christie said, “It’s hard to argue when you don’t have the knowledge (of what’s in them).” All the more reason, it would seem, that Christie shouldn’t shy away from encouraging members of Congress to read the 28 pages and reach their own conclusions.
Deference to the President and the Intelligence Community
Responding to former Senator Bob Graham’s assertion that the 28 pages implicate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Christie—who had earlier in the town hall referred to Saudi Arabia as “our allies”—said, “The intelligence committees of the House and Senate are regularly briefed on all this stuff. I have a hard time believing that…direct evidence that puts something on a specific state actor could be kept secret on Capitol Hill for 13 years.”
The audience member pressed Christie, asking, “Don’t we have a right to know?”
He replied, “That’s for the President of the United States to decide…the question is: In his judgment and the judgment of the people in the national security apparatus, do they believe there’s something in there that’s classified that would cause harm or danger to American interests?”
Christie’s deference to the president and the intelligence community seemed to ignore the very real possibility that, in a country where excessive classification is well-documented, the 28 pages are being concealed for reasons that have nothing to do with national security.
Indeed, at a January press conference introducing H.Res.14, Graham said, “Much of what passes for classification for national security reasons is really classified because it would disclose incompetence. And since the people who are classifying are also often the subject of the materials, they have an institutional interest in avoiding exposure of their incompetence.”
28 Pages a Welcome Addition to Campaign Discourse
Earlier this year, the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin declared that the 28 pages should be a 2016 presidential campaign issue. Thanks to one knowledgeable and assertive citizen in New Hampshire—and the fact that top-tier contender Rand Paul is now championing the cause—that vision is starting to be realized.