Brennan: Release of 28 Pages Requires “Discussions” with Congress

John Brennan
John Brennan

Echoing private comments made by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in May, CIA Director John Brennan today said the release of 28 classified pages that describe links between Saudi Arabia and 9/11 would necessitate coordination between the White House and Congress.

Brennan’s remarks came in an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations, and are the first public assertion by an administration official that an ongoing review of the 28 pages will not end at the White House.

The CIA director’s statement was prompted by a question from the audience—posed by a registered foreign agent of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A Review Two Years in the Making

In the summer of 2014, spurred by members of the House seeking the release of the 28 pages, President Obama tasked Clapper with coordinating an intelligence community review of the 28 pages.

Asked today about the status of the review, Brennan replied, “I am only the director of CIA, so I don’t make decisions about the release of a congressional document.”

“There’s an executive branch responsibility, because that document cited executive branch information,” said Brennan. However, he said, “there is going to be the appropriate discussions that need to take place between the executive and legislative branches to finalize (the declassification process.)”

Brennan did not elaborate on who would participate in those discussions or when they would take place. In May, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that “intelligence officials have indicated they expect to complete that process by the end of June.”

This Secure U.S. Capitol Facility Houses the 28 Pages
The 28 Pages: Locked Behind These Doors

The 28 pages are found in the report of a 2002 congressional joint intelligence inquiry into 9/11, and are housed in a secure facility beneath the U.S. Capitol.

As he did earlier this month, Brennan simultaneously endorsed the release of the 28 pages while questioning their value in providing a better understanding of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“I believe it’s important that that document get out because there’s so much speculation and conjecture about it,” said Brennan. “I have said there are a lot of things in there that unfortunately I think will be used by some to maybe misrepresent the facts or history, but that’s why the 9/11 Commission’s thorough, thorough, researched investigation really should be seen by folks as the much more dispositive of it.”

28 Pages vs 9/11 Commission Report

Brennan did not mention Saudi Arabia in his remarks, but has previously made clear his concern that readers of the 28 pages might conclude the Saudis were complicit in aiding the hijackers—a conclusion that they would share with former Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired the congressional inquiry. Graham has said that “the 28 pages point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the 9/11 attacks.

On Meet the Press, Brennan said, “The 9/11 Commission took that joint inquiry, and those 28 pages or so, and followed through on the investigation. And they came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that indicated that the Saudi government as an institution, or Saudi officials individually, had provided financial support to Al Qaeda.”

Brennan’s suggestion that the 9/11 Commission report effectively rendered the 28 pages obsolete is countered by members of the commission, including former senator Bob Kerrey. In a statement offered in support of a the 9/11 families and victims suit against Saudi Arabia, Kerrey said, “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued.”

In addition, there are many more counterpoints to Brennan’s assertion that the 9/11 Commission conducted a “thorough, thorough” investigation of Saudi links to the attacks.

28 Pages May Be Accompanied by Other Documents

Brennan’s remarks were elicited by a question from George Salem, a strategic advisor to DLA Piper, which is a registered foreign agent of Saudi Arabia. Salem asked Brennan to comment on the timing of the release, the expected extent of declassification and whether the release would be accompanied by additional investigation reports to provide fuller context.

“There are some other documents that may come out at the same time, as you point out, but again I defer to others who have that decision-making responsibility,” said Brennan.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Massie: Keeping 28 Pages Secret Threatens National Security

Massie CSPANCongressman Thomas Massie, one of Capitol Hill’s leading advocates for the declassification of 28 pages said to link 9/11 to Saudi Arabia, used an appearance on CSPAN to make the case that releasing the pages would make Americans safer.

“I think keeping it secret jeopardizes national security,” Massie told CSPAN’s Greta Brawner on Wednesday.

The Kentucky congressman argued that hiding critical facts about the 9/11 attacks prevents the American people and their representatives from fully understanding the terror threat and adopting the right policies to counter it.

Massie decried the lack of professional curiosity his fellow legislators have demonstrated where the 28 pages are concerned.

“Frankly, most of my colleagues haven’t even read them. We are debating the National Defense Authorization Act this week which has policy implications for the Middle East. People voting on the NDAA this week have not read (the 28 pages), yet they’re crafting policy ostensibly to prevent another 9/11. Well, if you don’t know what caused the first 9/11, how are you going to prevent another one? So I think the argument about national security is an argument to release the 28 pages,” he said.

On Saturday, The Hill’s Julian Hattem reported that the congressional intelligence committees have seen a notable uptick in requests to read the 28 pages after an April 60 Minutes report thrust the topic into the national spotlight.

Since the 114th Congress convened in January 2015, 72 members have requested to read the pages. While that’s nearly triple the number who requested to read in the 113th Congress, it’s still low enough to confirm Massie’s claim that most of his peers are casting life-and-death national security votes in a fog of willful ignorance.

Support for Bill to Enable Suit Against Saudi Arabia

Earlier this week, the Senate passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA), which would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to enable 9/11 family members and victims to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in supporting the hijackers. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Massie hadn’t seen the text of the Senate bill, but said, “I would probably vote for that. One of the arguments that I’ve made for releasing that report is so that you can discover the chain of culpability or liability for the victims. I’ve spoken with the families of the victims and the children of the victims and they really have no recourse right now and I think these 28 pages could help them.”

On Thursday, in an interview on RT America, Rep. Rick Nolan said the experience of reading the 28 pages made him “much more” supportive of JASTA and enabling 9/11 victims to sue those who enabled the attacks.

Massie’s Answer to a Frequent Declassification Question

Massie said he’s often asked why he doesn’t simply read the 28 pages on the floor of the House under the protection of the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause. “I don’t have a copy of it and they don’t let me take my cell phone (into the secure facility that houses the 28 pages)—and by the way, if I read it on the floor of the House they’ll never give me a secret document again,” he said.

Massie reaffirmed his commitment to bringing about the release through other avenues. “It may jeopardize relationships with other countries but so be it,” said Massie. “The truth needs to get out for the victims’ families and for our national policy.”

Call Congress: Our easy guide helps you make a quick impact

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter