MAJOR DEVELOPMENT: Rand Paul, Ron Wyden to Introduce 28 Pages Bill in Senate

Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul

By Brian McGlinchey

The growing, nonpartisan drive to declassify a 28-page finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers is about to take an enormous step forward with the introduction of a Senate bill urging the president to release the material to the public.

Dramatically compounding the issue’s visibility, the bill is being introduced by high-profile Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul of Kentucky.

A spokesperson for Senator Paul told 28Pages.org that Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden will cosponsor the bill, which will serve as the upper chamber’s counterpart to House Resolution 14. Wyden is a member of the Senate intelligence committee.

Paul will unveil the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims Act at a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday, June 2 at 10:00 am, joined by Representatives Walter Jones (R, NC), Stephen Lynch (D, MA), Thomas Massie (R, KY) and former Democratic Senator Bob Graham.

Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Ron Wyden

Jones, Lynch and Massie introduced H.Res.14 and have been championing the issue—and seeking like-minded senators to lead the cause in the upper chamber—since December 2013.

Aided by Graham, who co-chaired the joint congressional 9/11 inquiry that wrote the 28 pages as one chapter in a far larger report, their success in securing the leadership of Paul and Wyden represents a critical milestone for the 28 pages movement.

As Paul and Wyden seek cosponsors for the bill, there are 11 senators whose support should—on principle, if not politics—be automatic:  Patrick Leahy (VT), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Harry Reid (NV), Barbara Boxer (CA), Patty Murray (WA), Dick Durbin (IL), Jack Reed (RI), Chuck Schumer (NY), Bill Nelson (FL), Tom Carper (DE) and Maria Cantwell (WA).  What do these 11 Democrats have in common? Months after the December 2002 release of the congressional intelligence report that holds the 28 pages, each of them signed a 2003 letter to President George W. Bush protesting his decision to redact the 28 pages and urging him to release them. In part, that letter read:

Unfortunately, because all but two pages of the entire section have been deemed too secret for public disclosure, the American people remain in the dark about other countries that may have facilitated the terrorist attacks. It has been widely reported in the press that the foreign sources referred to in this portion of the Joint Inquiry analysis reside primarily in Saudi Arabia. The decision to classify this information sends the wrong message to the American people about our nation’s anti-terror effort and makes it seem as if there will be no penalty for foreign abettors of the hijackers…Protecting the Saudi regime by eliminating any public penalty for the support given to terrorists from within its borders would be a mistake.

Among those 11 natural candidates to join the Paul-Wyden bill, one stands out: Schumer led the 2003 letter-writing effort. At the time, he said, “The bottom line is that keeping this material classified only strengthens the theory that some in the U.S. government are hellbent on covering up for the Saudis. If we’re going to take terrorism down, that kind of behavior has got to be nipped in the bud and shedding some light on these 28 pages would start that process.”

The 28 Pages and the Ongoing Scourge of  Terrorism

Calling the bill the “Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims Act” is an important acknowledgement that 9/11 family members deserve to know the full circumstances of their loved ones’ murders—and to access information that could be useful in lawsuits they’ve filed against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Then again—given the broad impact of 9/11 and the ensuing “War on Terror,” 9/11 transparency is truly owed to every American citizen and to people all around the world. Former Senator Graham and House leaders of the 28 pages movement who’ve read the 28 pages argue that their release is vital to the ongoing struggle with terrorism.

According to Graham, “the 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier.” He has also said the U.S. government’s shielding of Saudi Arabia’s role in funding extremism helped pave the way for the rise of ISIS. The House’s Lynch made a similar point in a 2014 story written by the Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender:

(Lynch) believes the information has direct bearing on the new war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other militant Sunni Muslim groups that are believed to be drawing some of their funding from the same Arab states that America considers key allies. The revelations are central to understanding “the web of intrigue here and the treacherous nature of the parties we are dealing with — the terrorists and their supporters,” Lynch said in an interview.

Kentucky Republican congressman Thomas Massie, in a memorable 2014 press conference, described the experience of reading the 28 pages as “shocking” and said “I had to stop every couple of pages and…try to rearrange my understanding of history…It challenges you to rethink everything.” (Watch it here.)

9/11 family members say President Obama, on two different occasions, gave assurances that he would release the 28 pages. Last September, responding to a report on the 28 pages by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the White House’s National Security spokesperson said, “Earlier this summer the White House requested that (the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) review the 28 pages from the joint inquiry for declassification. ODNI is currently coordinating the required interagency review and it is ongoing.”

It takes the average adult about 28 minutes to read 28 pages, but more than 8 months after the White House statement—and almost 14 years since the September 11 attacks—the pages remain under close guard in the basement of the United States Capitol. Brian McGlinchey is the founder and director of 28Pages.org

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The 28 Pages and the War on Terror: Is Congress in a State of Willful Ignorance?

By Brian McGlinchey

Today more than ever, Americans are struggling to unravel the Gordian knot of overt and covert alliances that comprise the Middle East’s geostrategic landscape. As they do, politicians and pundits constantly remind them that reaching the correct conclusions about the region is imperative if we are to thwart the menace of terrorism and prevent the next 9/11.

REDACTED1As if a thicket of misinformation, hit-and-miss journalism and competing propaganda didn’t make the challenge daunting enough, the American people face an even more formidable barrier in their attempts to reach informed and rational conclusions about U.S. policy in the Middle East: the classification of a 28-page finding on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers—classification that continues over the objections of the chairman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission and the former senator who co-chaired the inquiry that produced the 28 pages.

Preventing a hypothetical “next 9/11” starts with a clear understanding of what enabled the actual one—yet, even as the U.S. military prepares for the next chapter in the seemingly perpetual War on Terror, Americans continue to be denied critical knowledge about how the September 11 attacks were planned and funded. Reflecting on that disconnect, Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie recently told Slate, “Until we know what enabled or caused 9/11, we shouldn’t be talking about starting a third war to prevent another 9/11.”

A Looming Scandal on the Hill

For everyday Americans, ignorance about what lies within the 28 pages is imposed; for apparently far too many in Congress, that ignorance is willful.

You see—unlike the citizens they represent—when it comes to reading or not reading the 28 pages, legislators enjoy the luxury of a choice: After securing permission through their respective intelligence committee, representatives and senators can venture into a guarded, soundproof room at the Capitol and read the classified findings on foreign government assistance to the 9/11 hijackers in their entirety. Astonishingly—given what’s at stake for the country and for the lives of servicemembers and civilians alike—there are indications only a slim minority have bothered to do so.

Rep. Walter Jones (NC)
Rep. Walter Jones

North Carolina’s Walter Jones is one congressman who did take the initiative to learn what lies in the 28 pages. Later, he said, “I was absolutely shocked by what I read. What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me.” He added, “The information is critical to our foreign policy moving forward and should thus be available to the American people.”

On January 8th of this year, by way of a “Dear Colleague” letter, Jones and Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch urged every one of their fellow House representatives to read the 28 pages for themselves. Among those who heeded their call was Rep. Massie. At a March 11 press conference in which he joined Jones and Lynch in imploring peers to examine the redacted finding, Massie offered a striking description of his reaction to the revelations within the 28 pages, saying: “It was a really disturbing event for me to read those. I had to stop every two or three pages and rearrange my perception of history. And it’s that fundamental…it certainly changes your view of the Middle East.”

Rep. Stephen Lynch
Rep. Stephen Lynch

Given legislators’ role in advocating, shaping and funding defense and foreign policy, one would think descriptions like those offered by Jones and Massie would instantly spark a long, long queue outside that soundproof room in the Capitol—if not prompted by representatives’ professional curiosity, then surely by simple human curiosity.

However, in what could emerge as a national security scandal that engulfs much of Congress, there are indications that, when it comes to acquiring essential knowledge to shape policies that safeguard the country, a majority of legislators have thus far made a conscious decision to remain ignorant:

  • As of this writing, 13 of the House’s 432 representatives have joined as cosponsors of a Jones-authored resolution urging the president to declassify the 28 pages.
  • A source on the Hill who is familiar with the declassification effort is personally unaware of any representative who has read the 28 pages over the last several months who didn’t emerge from the experience as a supporter of declassification.

When you overlay one of those observations on the other, the result points to a woefully low level of interest among the nation’s legislators in learning what “shocking,” “surprising” and “history-rearranging” facts are contained in the classified passage.

A Question for Every Representative and Senator:           “Have You Read the 28 Pages?”

Those indications paint a bleak portrait of Congressional diligence in overseeing national security policy. What’s needed now is a name-by-name accounting of which representatives and senators have read the 28 pages and which have not. To that end, 28Pages.org urges constituents, journalists and transparency advocacy organizations to help bring accountability to this essential issue of national security job performance by contacting legislators and asking them two simple, yes-or-no questions:

  • Have you read the 28 pages?
  • If not, have you asked permission from your intelligence committee to do so?

REDACTED w911We provide a wealth of resources to help citizens do their part, and encourage journalists to contact us for insights on the issue.

Keep up with the growing, nonpartisan drive to declassify the 28 pages.  Follow 28Pages.org on Twitter and like us on Facebook.