In an important development in the drive for greater 9/11 transparency, John Lehman, the former U.S. Navy secretary who served on the 9/11 Commission, has criticized recent statements by commission co-chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton. The two had cast doubt on the reliability of 28 classified pages from a congressional intelligence inquiry and also said their commission had only identified one Saudi official as being implicated in aiding the hijackers.
Lehman’s statements appeared in a piece for The Guardian written by Philip Shenon, author of The Commission—the most exhaustive and revealing account of the 9/11 Commission’s work. Shenon wrote:
In the interview Wednesday, Lehman said Kean and Hamilton’s statement that only one Saudi goverment employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers in California and elsewhere was “a game of semantics” and that the commission had been aware of at least five Saudi government officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the terrorists’ support network.
“They may not have been indicted, but they were certainly implicated,” he said. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence.”
Lehman wasn’t the only commission member who spoke out via Shenon:
Another panel member, speaking of condition of anonymity for fear of offending the other nine, said the 28 pages should be released even though they could damage the commission’s legacy—“fairly or unfairly”—by suggesting lines of investigation involving the Saudi government that were pursued by Congress but never adequately explored by the commission.
“I think we were tough on the Saudis, but obviously not tough enough,” the commissioner said.
Shenon also reviews several indications that the commission’s pursuit of Saudi leads may have been thwarted—with specific references to the actions of commission executive director Philip Zelikow.
It’s a must-read; rather than fully summarizing it, we’ll instead urge you to read it all, and to also read our recent piece that makes the case that recent statements by Kean, Hamilton and Zelikow about the 28 pages are likely intended to guard their reputations against a truth that’s becoming more evident each day: The 9/11 Commission failed to vigorously examine potential Saudi ties to 9/11.
In other news today:
- Three more members of Congress have cosponsored House Resolution 14, which urges the president to declassify the 28 pages: Brad Sherman (D, CA-30), Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Jackie Speier (CA-14). This new trio from the president’s own party brings the total to 52.
- A story by Shane Harris at The Daily Beast dives deep into the mystery of the wealthy Saudi family that abrubtly left their Sarasota home just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks—but, according to some, not before having contacts with hijackers, including Mohammed Atta.
- At Salon, Marcy Wheeler offers a new perspective on the NSA’s failures in the weeks leading up to 9/11, and the positively disturbing extent to which relationships with large government contractors influenced decisions and the drive for accountability.