Jeb Bush: “I Don’t Know What the 28 Pages Are”

By Brian McGlinchey

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush

Activists affiliated with New Hampshire-based “Declassify the 28 Pages” are at it again.

Continuing to make the redacted 28 pages on foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers a campaign issue, they recently asked Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush if he would declassify them.

Bush’s answer: “I don’t know what the 28 pages are, so please explain it.” (Video below.)

The exchange took place at an August 7 town hall in Barrington, New Hampshire. Bush added, “Look, I can’t commit to something until I see it. Since I don’t have classified information, I can’t tell you what it is or tell you whether it should be declassified.” When the woman offered to explain what the 28 pages are—as Bush himself had asked in his initial reply—he stopped her from doing so.

There are two potential explanations for Bush’s answer, and neither is flattering to the former Florida governor. Bush is either so poorly informed on national security matters that he is truly unaware of a well-documented and intriguing 13-year old controversy surrounding his brother’s decision to classify a full chapter in the report of a 2002 joint congressional inquiry into September 11, or he was feigning ignorance to dodge discussion of yet another sensitive Bush family topic.

Jeb’s Links to the 28 Pages: Family, Florida and Saudi Arabia

There are many reasons why Bush’s claim of ignorance on this topic invites skepticism. First, of course, is the fact that his brother sits at the center of the controversy.

Then there’s the fact that, for more than a dozen years, the most prominent voice calling for the declassification of the 28 pages has been Bush’s fellow Floridian Bob Graham. While Bush was governor, Graham represented Florida in the Senate and co-chaired the unprecedented joint inquiry that produced the 28 pages. When the 28 pages were released, Graham publicly decried the redaction and was among 46 senators who signed a letter to Jeb’s brother urging their release.

Also during their governor-senator overlap, Graham published “Intelligence Matters,” a book that was very critical of the Bush administration’s actions before and after the September 11 attacks, including the decision to redact the 28 pages.

Among the criticisms advanced by Graham were well-substantiated claims that the Bush White House went out of its way to shield the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from scrutiny of its ties to the 9/11 hijackers. Graham has since said the 28 pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the 9/11 attacks.

Screen shot 2015-08-19 at 1.59.12 PM
George W. Bush and King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud

If the family and Florida connections to the 28 pages aren’t enough to put the issue on Bush’s radar, Graham’s claim that the 28 pages implicate Saudi Arabia in the devastating terror attack should be an attention-getter, given the Saudi royal family and the Bush family are deeply connected in ways that are both personal and financial.

$1.4 billion has reportedly made its way from the Saudi royal family to entities tied to the Bush family, and lobbyists for Saudi Arabia are helping to fund Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. On the same day in February, two different lobbyists for Saudi Arabia gave a combined $15,000 to Bush’s super PAC, and one of them has already raised another $32,400 in bundled contributions for the Bush campaign fund.

Congressman Walter Jones—who has introduced a House resolution urging the release of the 28-pages chapter—has said, “There’s nothing in it about national security. It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.”

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Lindsey Graham’s Admission: “I Have Not Read the 28 Pages”

By Brian McGlinchey

Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham

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.

Saudi FlagGraham 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— 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

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Christie: Members of Congress Should Read 28 Pages on 9/11 Only “If They’re Interested”

Governor Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie

Prospective presidential contender Chris Christie routinely accuses rivals of having “9/11 amnesia,” but is at peace with the fact that the vast majority of Congress is in a state of willful ignorance about indications of foreign government support of the 9/11 hijackers found in 28 classified pages of a 2002 congressional report.

At a Monday town hall in Goffstown, New Hampshire, a member of the audience provided a detailed overview of the 28 pages and why there’s a growing movement to declassify them.

She concluded by noting the fact that very few members of Congress have read them and asked the New Jersey governor if he felt people making life-and-death decisions should spend a half hour reading what Congressman Thomas Massie recently called “some of the best intelligence we have” in the war on terror.

“Different people in Congress are interested in different things,” said Christie. “If they have an interest, they should go and they should read it. I don’t know why they wouldn’t have an interest, but I’m not going to sit here and dictate to people what they spend their time on.” (Watch the full exchange on the embedded video below.)

It was quite a display of casual ambivalence from a politician who—like any other—routinely prescribes actions that others in government should take on countless issues, including many where human lives don’t hang in the balance.

When asked if the 28 pages should be declassified, Christie said, “It’s hard to argue when you don’t have the knowledge (of what’s in them).” All the more reason, it would seem, that Christie shouldn’t shy away from encouraging members of Congress to read the 28 pages and reach their own conclusions.

Deference to the President and the Intelligence Community

A Demonstrator Outside Christie's Town Hall
A Demonstrator Outside Christie’s New Hampshire Town Hall

Responding to former Senator Bob Graham’s assertion that the 28 pages implicate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Christie—who had earlier in the town hall referred to Saudi Arabia as “our allies”—said, “The intelligence committees of the House and Senate are regularly briefed on all this stuff. I have a hard time believing that…direct evidence that puts something on a specific state actor could be kept secret on Capitol Hill for 13 years.”

The audience member pressed Christie, asking, “Don’t we have a right to know?”

He replied, “That’s for the President of the United States to decide…the question is: In his judgment and the judgment of the people in the national security apparatus, do they believe there’s something in there that’s classified that would cause harm or danger to American interests?”

Christie’s deference to the president and the intelligence community seemed to ignore the very real possibility that, in a country where excessive classification is well-documented, the 28 pages are being concealed for reasons that have nothing to do with national security.

Indeed, at a January press conference introducing H.Res.14, 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.”

28 Pages a Welcome Addition to Campaign Discourse

Earlier this year, the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin declared that the 28 pages should be a 2016 presidential campaign issue. Thanks to one knowledgeable and assertive citizen in New Hampshire—and the fact that top-tier contender Rand Paul is now championing the cause—that vision is starting to be realized.

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