By Brian P. McGlinchey
Congressman Stephen Lynch, who has read 28 classified pages said to describe links between Saudi officials and the 9/11 hijackers, today suggested that information in the pages may embarrass the U.S. intelligence community.
Speaking at a press conference promoting a new resolution that calls for Congress to bypass the president and release the 28 pages to the public on its own, Lynch said, “There may be some very embarrassing facts, some very embarrassing moments, and some criticisms on our own intelligence service because of what happened, if all the facts come out.”
“I think that those individuals (in the intelligence community) don’t want this to come out,” continued Lynch. “They don’t want the facts to come out because it may reveal terrible, terrible errors on their part and they may bear part of the blame” for failing to prevent the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Lynch’s remarks about the intelligence community seemed to echo a previous statement by former senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the joint congressional intelligence inquiry that produced the 28 pages as the final chapter in a report spanning more than 800 pages.
At a January 2015 press conference on the 28 pages, 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.”
Drawing in part on Graham’s statement, 28Pages.org reasoned in a February 2015 piece that “it’s likely that among the most powerful of (the) unseen opponents of 9/11 transparency are two strange bedfellows: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has fueled the growth of terror (and) the U.S. intelligence community, which is charged with thwarting terror.”
Lynch’s statements today—far more pointed than Graham’s—seem to move that notion decisively away from the category of speculation.
Asked to provide his own explanation for the continued classification of the 28 pages, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie replied, “To answer your question in a word, the word is ’embarrassment.'” He elaborated that “releasing these pages is going to open a chapter back up that they tried to slam shut. It’s going to bring more questions that have to be answered and have to be dealt with and I think people don’t want to have to deal with those questions.”
New Resolution Would Bypass President
Today’s press conference was called to promote House Resolution 779, which urges the chair and ranking member of the House intelligence committee to publish the 28 pages into the Congressional Record, relying on the protection from prosecution afforded by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Introduced last month, H.Res.779 offers a new angle of attack for Capitol Hill’s declassification advocates, who are led by Representatives Walter Jones, Lynch and Massie. A separate resolution—H.Res.14—urges the president to declassify the 28 pages and has attracted a bipartisan mix of 70 cosponsors.
Jones said that, next week, he, Lynch and Massie will send a letter to Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, the chair and ranking member of the intel committee, urging them to schedule a hearing on H.Res.779 immediately upon the House’s return from summer recess on September 6—just days before the 15th anniversary of the attacks. Both Nunes and Schiff have previously voiced their support for releasing the pages.
No Need for White House Approval
While voicing their hope that President Obama will make good on his reported assurances to 9/11 family members that he would release the pages—and promptly bring to a conclusion a review of the 28 pages that the White House claims has been in progress for two years—the representatives underscored their conviction that Congress has the power to release the pages on its own.
“There is another path here,” said Lynch. “If the Obama administration does not go forward and declassify, then we need to pass House Resolution 779 to urge the House intelligence committee to publish the 28 pages.”
Massie concurred. “Congress has possession and ownership of these documents…we have the power to release them right here in this building. We don’t need to appeal to anybody else,” he said. As part of a congressional report, the 28 pages are kept in a secure facility beneath the U.S. Capitol.
Referring to the precedent set by then-Senator Mike Gravel, who declassified the Pentagon Papers through the Speech or Debate Clause, Lynch said, “It may come to that…it may come to a point where myself and Walter (Jones) and Mr. Massie go to the well of the house and read the text of the 28 pages—if we can get it released to us, that’s the key.”
That scenario seems remote: If the intelligence committee were amenable enough to actually grant the trio unprecedented permission to remove the pages from behind locked doors, it seems likelier it would go ahead and formally publish the document without the drama of having them read on the floor.
If the president and the intelligence committees cannot be persuaded to release the pages, a more plausible Speech or Debate Clause scenario may entail the representatives revealing key information from the 28 pages by speaking about it from memory.
You can view the press conference here. A few more noteworthy statements:
- Jones: “We have been beating a drum for five years. We have always said ‘we are not going to let this go’ and you the American people and the press have joined us in this and it’s time now to put the press on those who can make the decision in the matter of a moment.”
- Lynch: “I’m on the financial services committee. There are records that we have not been able to access that track financial support for these hijackers while they were in the United States. I would like to see full disclosure of those. It creates a paper trail from the hijackers to individuals who supported them.”
- 9/11 widow Terry Strada, referring to the long-running declassification review, and the Obama administration’s failure to answer letters from 9/11 family members: “It appears once again the Saudis seem to hold more sway than we, the American people…This type of treatment keeps us, the victims, families and survivors, in a perpetual hell and it’s something we want to end.”
- Kaitlyn Strada, daughter of Tom Strada, killed at the World Trade Center: “My father lived by the saying ‘do the right thing’ and today I’m urging Congress to do the right thing and sign on to House Resolution 779 and asking President Obama to keep his word and declassify the 28 pages without further delay.”
- Jones: “This is the right of the American people. Their fellow Americans were killed by enemies of America. If we’re protecting them, then whoever’s protecting them ought to be held responsible for protecting the enemy.”
- Massie: “We are less safe if (the 28 pages) are kept private…We are debating the causes and sources of terrorism and seeking to prevent it in the future, these 28 pages will inform the public and they will inform members of congress who haven’t taken the time to go read it.”