Rep. Lynch: 28 Pages on 9/11 May Reveal “Terrible, Terrible Errors” by U.S. Intelligence Community

By Brian P. McGlinchey

Rep. Stephen Lynch
Rep. Stephen Lynch

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.

Concealing Incompetence?

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

Massie CSPANWhile 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.

Notable Quotes

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.”

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New House Resolution Directs Intel Committee to Release 28 Pages From 9/11 Report

By Brian P. McGlinchey

Rep. Walter Jones
Rep. Walter Jones

Encouraged by rising, bipartisan support for a resolution urging President Obama to declassify 28 pages said to link Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 hijackers, the leaders of Capitol Hill’s declassification drive have now introduced a resolution directing the leaders of the House intelligence committee to take matters into their own hands.

Introduced Monday, House Resolution 779 directs the chair and ranking member of the House intelligence committee—Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, respectively—to disclose the con the 28 pages by publishing them in the Congressional Record under the protection of the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

Congressman Walter Jones introduced the resolution along with original cosponsors Stephen Lynch and Thomas Massie. The same trio is the driving force behind House Resolution 14, which urges the president to release the pages that comprise the final chapter in the report of a 2002 congressional intelligence inquiry. Introduced last year, HRes 14 has seen a surge in support following an April 60 Minutes report on the 28 pages, and now has 70 cosponsors.

“I have read these pages and can say that while their release will not harm national security, the contents are critical to our foreign policy moving forward…That is why I have introduced a resolution that would enable the House Committee on Intelligence to declassify the 28 pages,” said Jones in a press release issued today.

Committee Leaders Support Declassification

Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes
Rep. Devin Nunes

In April, both Nunes and Schiff voiced their support for releasing the 28 pages. Nunes said “the benefits of publishing this information would outweigh any potential damage to America’s national security,” and Schiff told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “They should be released and I think, as is often the case, the speculation about what they contain is more damaging in fact than the contents.”

H.Res.779 has been referred to the House rules committee. The committee’s ranking member, Louise Slaughter, is a cosponsor of the resolution urging the president to declassify the pages.

The resolution’s preamble notes that the CIA has acknowledged that the 28 pages are the property of Congress and that the Supreme Court “upheld the constitutional prerogative of Members of Congress or committees of Congress to disclose classified information” by way of the Speech or Debate Clause.

This new legislative action comes as an intelligence community declassification review of the 28 pages is expected to wrap up in the next few weeks.

The White House said it ordered the review in the summer of 2014. Skeptical that a review of just 28 pages could truly take two years and counting, many observers—including 9/11 family members and victims—point to the delay as signaling the Obama administration’s desire to put off a resolution of the issue as long as possible.

Former Sen. Bob Graham
Former Sen. Bob Graham

The delay strategy grew untenable in April when the 60 Minutes report spawned fresh media attention, dozens of newspaper editorials, heightened citizen interest and an increase in legislator requests to read the secret pages. Soon after the 60 Minutes segment aired, former senator Bob Graham said that a Department of Homeland Security advisor told him to expect a decision in June.

However, confusion has mounted over what exactly will happen at the end of that review. In a May meeting with proponents of the pages’ release, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reportedly voiced an expectation that the president would turn the matter back over to the Congress. If that is indeed the White House’s intention, it could represent a new means of stalling the release of a document that, according to Graham, “point(s) a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the 9/11 attacks. H.Res. 779 addresses that possibility head-on.

A New Angle on Speech or Debate Clause

The drive to declassify the 28 pages has spanned 13 years; throughout that time, many citizens have called for members of Congress to declassify the 28 pages by entering them into the congressional record under the protection from prosecution provided by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

As we reported earlier this month, one of those advocating that avenue of declassification is former senator Mike Gravel, who used it to release the “Pentagon Papers,” a secret government history of the Vietnam War.

In his own declassification feat, Gravel had something that individual members of Congress lack where the 28 pages are concerned: physical custody of the document. The 28 pages are kept in a secure facility in the basement of the Capitol, precluding Jones, Lynch, Massie or other members of Congress from entering them into the record themselves.

SchiffRecognizing that, House Resolution 779 challenges those with greater dominion over the 28 pages—the chair and ranking member of the House intelligence committee—to do for Congress what rank-and-file members cannot do on their own.

Apart from the Speech or Debate Clause, both the House and Senate have rules by which either body, acting alone, can declassify information, even over the objection of the president. In both houses, the initiation of that process begins in the intelligence committee, but also entails seeking the president’s opinion and then a majority vote of the chamber to override it, if necessary.

In opting instead for a Speech or Debate Clause approach, Jones, Lynch and Massie are pursuing a route that bypasses the president and gives Congress an opportunity to assert its own authority by flexing a rarely-used muscle.

A Multi-Purpose Tactic

In the widening, multi-front battle to secure the release of the 28 pages, House Resolution 779 could serve two purposes.

First, the prospect of a congressional declassification of the 28 pages adds a new variable for Obama to weigh as he considers his own decision to declassify the 28 pages.

REDACTED1Embedded in his pending decision is yet another question: If the pages are released, what information, if any, should continue to remain secret? Knowing that the House intelligence committee could later release additional details he chose to conceal puts additional pressure on the president to be more liberal in his declassification. If he attempts to cater to Saudi Arabia or other interested parties by leaving damning details secret, he could face criticism and questioning of his motives if and when those details come out later.

Second, the new resolution also serves as a Plan B: Should the president decide not to release the 28 pages, to do so with heavy redactions, or turn the issue back to Capitol Hill, Congress would be poised to deliver transparency to the American people on its own.

“At a minimum, the draft resolution tends to maintain a drumbeat of pressure on the issue and makes it a tad more likely that the administration will act to release the material,” said Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, in an email to 28Pages.org.” Whether the resolution does more than that depends on what kind of reception it receives in the House.”

The development was applauded by Sharon Premoli, who endured a harrowing escape from the World Trade Center on 9/11: “I think it is unconscionable that it has taken this administration 8 years to read 28 pages and to make a decision. Anything that can move congress to declassify the 28 pages is a good thing and I support it 100 percent.”

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“Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson” Goes Deep on 28 Pages

A new investigative news program, “Full Measure with Sharyll Attkisson,” has taken a detailed look at the still-simmering controversy over the classification of 28 pages from a 2002 9/11 report that are said to indicate that the hijackers received financial and logistical support from Saudi Arabia.

The report includes interviews with House Resolution 14 champion Stephen Lynch, former congressman Pete Hoekstra and 9/11 widow and activist Terry Strada.

Hoekstra, who chaired the House intelligence committee and supports the release of the pages, said the continued concealment of the 28 pages can largely be attributed to the White House’s desire to avoid having to cope with the resulting fall-out: “It’s a complication they’d rather not deal with. They’re just saying, ‘We’ve got enough problems…we’ve got to deal with ISIS, we’ve got to deal with Iran, we’ve got to deal with al Qaeda…'”

However, former senator Bob Graham has said the shielding of Saudi Arabia from the consequences of its funding of extremism has only encouraged the kingdom’s continuation of that behavior—and thus paved the way for the ascent of ISIS into the disruptive force it is today.

Rep. Stephen Lynch
Rep. Stephen Lynch

Congressman Lynch described the level of detail found in the classified chapter of a 2002 congressional intelligence inquiry.

“It gave names of individuals and entities that I believe were complicit in the attacks on September 11. They were facilitators of those attacks. They are clearly identified…how people were financed, where they were housed, where the money was coming from, the conduits that were used and the connections between some of these individuals,” Lynch told Attkisson.

Asked why thought the pages are still secret, Lynch said, “I believe it’s to allow those individuals to escape accountability.”

Terry Strada is seeking that accountability. Her group, 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism earlier this week sent letters to President Obama and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence pressing for the material to be released.

The White House, sometime in the summer of 2014, tasked Clapper to lead an intelligence community review of the 28 pages for potential declassification. As 28Pages.org recently noted, the review has already taken twice as long as the entire joint inquiry that produced the 28 pages as part of a much larger report.

Noting the milestone, the group told Clapper, “It has been over a year since the request was made and we are both perplexed and troubled for the delay. Years before the formal request, in 2009 and again at the 10th anniversary in 2011, President Obama assured 9/11 family members steps would be taken to release the pages.”  Read the group’s letter to Obama and letter to Clapper

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Rand’s Next Stand: Declassifying Foreign Government Ties to 9/11

At a crowded Capitol Hill press conference today, Kentucky senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul (R) introduced legislation urging the president to declassify 28 pages on foreign government links to the 9/11 hijackers.

“We cannot let page after page of blanked-out documents be obscured behind a veil,” said Paul  “We cannot let this lack of transparency erode trust and make us feel less secure.”

Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul

Paul’s introduction of Senate Bill 1471—similar to House Resolution 14—represents a major milestone in the growth and visibility of the nonpartisan 28 pages movement.

Furthering his pattern of collaborating across the aisle on national security and other issues, Paul has already garnered the cosponsorship of Democrats Ron Wyden (OR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY). Paul and Wyden famously teamed up last week to block the extension of PATRIOT Act provisions that enabled the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone data.

Saying he was not alone in calling for the pages to be released, Paul noted that other advocates include “former heads of the CIA and the Republican and Democrat heads of the 9/11 commission” as well as bipartisan members of the House who are working to advance H.Res.14, which likewise urges the release of the 28 pages.

In an interesting twist, Paul announced his intention to next week offer the language of the bill as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. A similar maneuver was twice attempted in 2003 by then-Senator Byron Dorgan. Interestingly in note of last week’s high-profile clash over NSA surveillance, Dorgan’s effort was stymied on procedural objections initiated by Mitch McConnell.

At the press conference, Paul was joined by three congressmen who are leading the 28 pages effort in the House of Representatives—Walter Jones (R, NC), Stephen Lynch (D, MA) and Thomas Massie (R, KY)—and former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the intelligence inquiry that produced the 28 pages. 9/11 family members also spoke, including Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.

Graham: Release Will Prompt Reconsideration of Saudi Relationship

Of the speakers, former Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the inquiry that produced the 28 pages as part of a much larger report, spoke most pointedly about the 28 pages and what they reveal: “The 28 pages…go to the question of who financed 9/11 and they point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia.”

According to Graham, the release of the 28 pages will have broad ramifications. “The 28 pages are very important, and will…inform the American people and, in so doing, cause the American government to reconsider the nature of our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Graham said the 28 pages are “emblematic of a pattern of withholding information, unnecessarily and to the detriment of the American people.”

Former Senator Bob Graham
Former Senator Bob Graham

Graham offered a highly visual example of that pattern of withholding, describing a request made to the Treasury Department for information it had on a Saudi-based foundation suspected of funneling money to al Qaeda. The Department of Justice responded by distributing a report summarizing what it knew about the foundation.

Holding a think bundle of paper aloft, Graham said, “Let me just show you what the report said.” He thumbed through perhaps a hundred pages—all of them entirely blacked out.

Congressman Jones, who has spearheaded the 28 pages movement in the House of Representatives, said, “One of my biggest disappointments on the House side is that we have gotten very few members from the areas that were impacted by 9/11 to join us in our House Resolution 14, which simply calls on the President of the United States to keep his word to the 9/11 families and declassify this information.”

Lynch: Secrecy of 28 Pages “a Disgrace”

Congressman Lynch said, “It is appalling, it is a disgrace to a country that prides itself on transparency and truth and justice that these 28 pages of this bipartisan, bicameral congressional inquiry remains classified after 14 years from those terrorist attacks. It is not just a mere deletion of a few words here and there as is typical in these reports …this is a full-fledged black-out of information.”

Lynch rebutted the notion that national security is served by keeping the 28 pages under wraps. To the contrary, he said, “I firmly believe the information contained in these 28 pages will better inform our national security protocol and inform our anti-terrorism policy going forward.”

Lynch also said he shared Jones’ frustration with the low support of the 28 pages resolution in the House and the difficulty in persuading members to read the 28 pages for themselves.

Massie: Legislators “Pretending to be Informed” on Terror

Congressman Massie said the 28 pages represented a bipartisan issue. “Unfortunately, it is bipartisan in two regards. You have Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate who are leading the charge to release these pages, but you have two presidents, either of which could have released them: A Republican president who is the reason that they are secret, and a Democratic president who keeps them secret,” said Massie.

Massie noted that legislators are, on a daily basis, considering what steps to take at home and abroad to prevent another 9/11. All the while, he said, “some of the best intelligence we have is in these 28 pages and most of our colleagues in the House have not read them, yet they’re pretending to be informed on these issues and having a discussion on how to prevent the next 9/11, yet turning a blind eye to the 28 pages.”

According to The Hill’s Julian Hattem, only 25 House members requested permission from the House intelligence committee to read the 28 pages over the 24 months that ended on December 31. Seventeen have done so in the first five months of 2015.

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Video: Press Conference Introducing Senate 28 Pages Resolution on June 2, 2015

Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul

As 28Pages.org was first to report last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has introduced a Senate bill urging the president to declassify 28 pages on foreign government ties to the 9/11 hijackers. He will be joined in leading this effort by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

Senate Bill 1471 was introduced at a Capitol Hill press conference where Senator Paul was joined by Congressmen Walter Jones, Stephen Lynch and Thomas Massie as well as former Senator Bob Graham and several 9/11 family members, including Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.

Press conference video courtesy of LaRouchePAC. 28Pages.org is not affiliated with LaRouchePAC but is grateful to that organization for its ongoing, professional video coverage of many events relating to this issue. 

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