A former advisor to vice president Dick Cheney spearheaded the successful drive to kill a Republican Party platform plank that urged the release of 28 pages said to link Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 hijackers.
Steve Yates, who was a deputy national security advisor to Cheney for five years and is now chair of the Idaho Republican Party, offered the amendment that struck the plank. Yates is chair of the platform committee’s national security subcommittee, which narrowly approved the plank on Monday.
The Bush-Cheney administration insisted on classifying the 28 pages, which comprise the final chapter of the report of a 2002 joint congressional intelligence inquiry into 9/11.
In speaking in opposition to the plank, Yates said the idea of releasing the 28 pages “raises the specter that our intelligence gathering may be compromised…and pose a danger to our own national security.”
Yates’ national security claim is strikingly inconsistent with the opinions of other Republicans who have actually read the 28 pages:
- John Lehman, 9/11 Commission member and former Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan: “We all have dealt for our careers in highly classified and compartmentalized in every aspect of security. We know when something shouldn’t be declassified….those 28 pages in no way fall into that category.
- Rep. Walter Jones: “There’s nothing in it about national security. It’s about the Bush administration and its relationship with the Saudis.”
- Sen. Richard Shelby, former chair of the Senate intelligence committee: “I went back and read those pages thoroughly. My judgment is that 95 percent of that information could be declassified.”
Parroting speaking points from CIA Director John Brennan, Yates also claimed that the 28 pages “mainly consists of rumors from third parties that is totally uncorroborated. It is unfair to the individuals involved to allow the speculation to be treated as fact simply because it’s in a secret government report.”
The notion that the 28 pages contain unreliable information has been countered by former senator Bob Graham, who chaired the Senate intelligence committee and co-chaired the inquiry that produced the 28 pages. “There’s been no questions raised about the professionalism and quality of the other 820 pages of that report and this chapter followed the same standards that they did,” said Graham on Meet The Press.
As for the idea that it would be “unfair to the individuals involved” to release the report, classification expert Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told 28Pages.org earlier this year that “the 28 pages could be entirely false, malicious and nonsensical. That is not a basis for classification and that should not be an impediment to their declassification.”
Should 9/11 Justice Should Be a Private Matter?
Yates concluded with a suggestion that seemed to imply that accountability for an alleged Saudi role should be handled behind closed doors, president to king: “If Saudi officials were complicit in 9/11, that is a matter for both governments to resolve at the highest levels.”
Two other delegates spoke out against the plank in Tuesday’s debate: New York’s Thomas Dadey, who chairs the Onandaga County (Syracuse) GOP and Vermont’s Darcie Johnston.
Given New York’s position in the attacks, Dadey’s opposition no doubt stings for the many 9/11 family members who also call the Empire State home.
Likewise, Johnston’s opposition will strike many supporters of Donald Trump as something of a betrayal: Johnston is a Trump organizer, and her opposition to the plank was contrary to her candidate’s stance on the issue. Trump has indicated he would declassify the 28 pages and has said the classified material implicates Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks.