On Wednesday, a former Republican member of the 9/11 Commission stated that the congressional report contains clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the terror plot, and called for President Obama to immediately declassify the 28 redacted pages of the commission report.
The remarks by John Lehman, who was Navy Secretary for President Reagan, signaled a split among the 10 commissioners after the 2004 report was initially billed as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.
"There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government," said Lehman. "Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia."
Pressure has mounted in recent weeks to release the entire 9/11 Commission report. Beginning in April, former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), a member of the commission, demanded that the Obama Administration immediately make public the redacted pages of the report. Senator Graham asserted that the documents prove knowing involvement in the terror plot by leading members of the House of Saud.
The incident folded neatly into congressional and presidential politics, with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) submitting a bill the following week that would give family members of 9/11 victims the right to sue the Saudi government for its role in the terror plot. Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both announced their support of the measure days before the New York presidential primary election.
The push to declassify documents proving Saudi involvement in the most deadly terrorist act conducted on American soil, alongside the threat of litigation by family members, sparked a serious diplomatic row between Washington and Riyadh.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir responded to the United States that if the measures advanced, the Kingdom would sell off its holding of over $500 billion in US Treasury bonds, which, according to some, would result in an immediate stock market and currency meltdown. Democratic candidate Sanders called the threat by Saudi Arabia "extortion."
Until recently, the Obama Administration has looked to cool tensions with the Saudi government, actively lobbying Congress to drop the 9/11-family-member bill, citing concerns that the US would risk facing similar lawsuits from other countries.
President Obama visited with Saudi King Salman, assuring him that the US government would not seek to exact concessions from Saudi Arabia on behalf of the 9/11 families.
Unfortunately for the White House, the plans of concealing Saudi involvement in terror actions on US soil for another decade have been dashed by Lehman, and the worst may be coming.
The 28 pages are just the start: the FBI has thousands more classified 9/11 documents
In another development in Florida, the White House’s hopes to keep secret the extent of Riyadh’s involvement in the terror plot may be foiled, as a federal judge is weighing whether to declassify 80,266 pages of material that would reveal — in far more intricate detail — the hijackers’ Saudi connections and their activities in the weeks preceding the attack.
A group of lawyers and investigative journalists claim to have found hard evidence demonstrating that the Saudi royal family was directly involved in the plot – Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 ringleader, met with the Saudi royal family days before the attack, and phone records connect the House of Saud to the other hijackers.
Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who led the congressional inquiry that produced the 28 pages on Saudi connections, claimed he was stunned after reviewing findings from the 80,000 documents. He said that the FBI hadn’t given his committee any of the information that tied Mohamed Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers to the House of Saud.
The journalists’ findings "open the door to a new chapter of investigation as to the depth of the Saudi role in 9/11," Graham said, adding that when he reached out to the FBI’s deputy director, Sean Joyce, he was stonewalled. Graham stated that Joyce effectively told the Senator, "Basically everything about 9/11 was known and I was wasting my time and I should get a life."