By Brian McGlinchey
Republican presidential candidate and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who positions himself as one of Capitol Hill’s foremost champions of the “war on terror,” says he’s never read 28 classified pages detailing indications of foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers.
Graham’s admission, which came at a July 10 town hall event in Goffstown, New Hampshire, was prompted by a prepared question from a member of the audience. In a recorded exchange posted to YouTube by “Declassify the 28,” Graham also expressed hesitation about releasing the 28 pages for fear of causing “damage” to Saudi Arabia. (Video embedded below.)
28 Pages Said to Be Critical to Understanding Terror Threat
Since December 2013, Congressmen Walter Jones, Stephen Lynch and Thomas Massie have been urging legislators to read the 28-page chapter from a 2002 joint congressional intelligence inquiry. Jones says the 28 pages are “shocking,” and Lynch described them as critical to understanding “the web of intrigue…and the treacherous nature of the parties we are dealing with.” Massie said, “I had to stop every couple pages and try to rearrange my understanding of history.”
In light of those descriptions, Graham’s admitted failure to read the 28 pages could tarnish his foreign policy-dominated presidential campaign and make him vulnerable to being portrayed as neglectful of his duty to fully inform himself about America’s adversaries and their funding sources. (Senator Rand Paul has read the 28 pages and introduced Senate Bill 1471 to secure their release; it’s unknown if other members of the GOP candidate pool have read them.)
“Pretending to Be Informed”?
At a June press conference, Kentucky Congressman Massie lamented the fact that so many members of Congress are proposing counter-terror policies without the fuller understanding of terrorism that’s enabled by reading the 28 pages.
“Not a day goes by when we aren’t discussing how to prevent another 9/11…whether we should get involved in Syria, to what degree we should be concerned about Yemen, what to do about Iraq. ” Meanwhile, Massie said, “some of the best intelligence we have is in these 28 pages, and most of our colleagues…have not read them, yet they’re pretending to be informed on these issues.”
Graham, a member of the Senate armed services committee, has been among those most eager to propose U.S. military involvement to confront terrorism. For example, while most legislators shy away from the notion of recommitting combat troops to the Middle East, Graham has urged the deployment of 10,000 American ground troops to Iraq and Syria to battle ISIS.
Graham’s campaign website proclaims, “We need a president who understands the complex threats we face.” However, having not read the 28 pages, Graham may be advocating aggressive moves against the symptoms of Sunni extremism without a complete understanding of their cause. Indeed, former Florida Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the joint inquiry that produced the 28 pages, says the continued classification of the 28 pages enabled the rise of ISIS by shielding Saudi Arabian sponsors of the 9/11 terrorists from scrutiny and consequences.
Graham Protective of Saudi “Ally”
Noting Senator Bob Graham’s assertion that the 28 pages “point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the principal financier” of 9/11, the audience member asked Lindsey Graham if he would, as president, “do what Bush and Obama have failed to do” and declassify them.
Graham said, “I will decide as to whether or not to release the pages based on what kind of damage it would do to our allies. Saudi Arabia is an ally that’s helped us with terrorism, but it’s a country that needs to change. Does that make sense?”
Reiterating the allegations of Saudi financial support of the 9/11 hijackers, the woman replied, “That doesn’t sound like an ally to me.”
Graham responded by outlining Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of Wahabbi extremism as a bid to “buy tranquility” at home and said “one of the prices for admission” of Graham’s proposed military intervention against ISIS would be for Saudi Arabia to “stop funding these organizations. Stop funding terrorist groups. Stop double dealing.”
Graham’s claim that he would pressure Saudi Arabia as president seems at odds with his record in the senate. Though Graham is known for aggressive foreign policy positions against countries around the globe—including the use of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation— 28Pages.org could find no record of his legislative leadership of a toughened stance toward Saudi Arabia.
To the contrary, Graham, in concert with fellow Senator John McCain, met with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan to encourage the kingdom to finance Islamist extremist groups in Syria, a move that enabled the ascendance of the very ISIS threat that Graham now recommends deploying American servicemembers to fight.
Perhaps Graham’s posture would be far different if he’d read the 28 pages and had a fuller sense of Saudi Arabia’s apparent complicity in supporting the 9/11 hijackers. Or perhaps, more than 12 years since the 28 pages were written, he prefers not knowing what they reveal.
Brian McGlinchey is the founder and director of 28Pages.org