The Renewed Sept 11 Debate Over The 'Missing 28 Pages' And Saudi Arabia

作者:未知 来源:美国国家公共电台 2016-05-18

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A massive congressional report on the 9/11 attacks has never fully been made public. Then-President George W. Bush ordered 28 pages restricted to official eyes only. And those pages have remained classified ever since. Intelligence officials are reviewing them now to see whether some or all of them can now be released. That review is expected to wrap up next month, but it may already be damaging U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, as NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Late last month on this show, we heard from Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who helped lead the Congressional 9/11 investigation as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Graham has since retired from Congress, but he continues to push, as he has all along, for those 28 pages dealing with foreign financing of the 9/11 hijackers to be made public.

BOB GRAHAM: While I can't discuss the details of that chapter, they point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia.

WELNA: And some of Graham's former colleagues on the Intelligence Committee are now seconding his call.

RON WYDEN: The American people deserve to see this information.

WELNA: That's Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. He's co-sponsoring a bill mandating declassification of those 28 pages.

WYDEN: Then there'll be a debate about what the pages mean. I've read them. The American people deserve to know what's in them.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I think it would clear the air.

WELNA: That California's Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Panel's top Democrat.

FEINSTEIN: I've read the 28 pages now over the years three times. I just read them again last week. And it's my belief that investigative bodies have found essentially no evidence that the 28 pages relate to any specific government's culpability.

WELNA: A later report by a Blue Ribbon 9/11 Commission did indeed find no evidence that quote, "the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials had funded al-Qaida." Still, John Lehman, one of that panel's Republican members, told The Guardian newspaper that report should not be read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia. He too called for declassifying the 28 pages. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier this month that a lengthy evaluation about whether to do that is nearing completion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH EARNEST: The good news is that our intelligence officials have indicated that they expect to complete that process by the end of June. You know, we'll look forward to their decision at that point.

WELNA: At least one top intelligence official is against releasing the 28 pages. CIA Director John Brennan made that clear earlier this month on NBC's "Meet The Press."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

JOHN BRENNAN: I think some people may seize upon that uncorroborated, unvetted information that was in there that was basically just a collation of this information that came out of FBI files. And to point to Saudi involvement, which I think would be very, very inaccurate.

WELNA: Saudi Arabia, for its part, formally requested 13 years ago that the 28 pages be made public. Meanwhile, two leading senators, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer and Texas Republican John Cornyn, are promoting legislation that would strip away so-called sovereign immunity protections from any nation linked to terrorist attacks on American soil. Here's Senator Cornyn.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN CORNYN: It creates a very narrow provision, which may or may not apply to Saudi Arabia. But my attitude is let the chips fall where they may. Let's bring justice to the victims and the 9/11 families and deter, to the extent we can, terrorist attacks on our own soil.

WELNA: That bill is not supported by the Obama administration. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Congress earlier this year, such a bill could backfire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEC OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We'd be very troubled by it because what it would do is really expose the United States of America to lawsuit and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent in its current form.

WELNA: But Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal's not buying that argument.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: The families deserve no less than accountability from Saudi Arabia. The United States has nothing to fear, and the administration has been excessively defensive on this issue.

WELNA: Republican congressional leaders have also been wary, especially after warnings the Saudis could liquidate hundreds of billions of dollars in American assets should they face lawsuits in U.S. courts. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

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