By the end of President Obama’s term in office, the administration hopes to decide whether to declassify a controversial portion of Congress’ investigation into the 9/11 attacks, the White House said Tuesday. The so-called “28 pages,” which have never been publicly released, are said to implicate Saudi government officials and civilians in the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
The administration had directed a “declassification review” of the material from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the terrorist attacks in 2014. Former lawmakers who have read the classified pages say they describe a financial and logistical support network for the 19 hijackers, most of them Saudi citizens, while they were in the U.S. The report was released in December 2002.
“That review process remains underway, but every effort is being taken to complete it before the end of the Administration,” Ned Price, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, told The Daily Beast in a statement. “We appreciate the concerns and interest of the 9/11 families, historians, and others in this excerpt. And without prejudging the results of this particular review, we will continue to be inclined toward transparency and openness whenever possible.”
From the day the congressional report was published, members of the joint inquiry have been pressing executive branch officials to let the public read the 28 pages, and that pressure has been mounting ahead of President Obama’s planned trip to Saudi Arabia later this month.
Retired senator Bob Graham of Florida, who helped lead the joint inquiry, has been the most vocal proponent. On Tuesday, Graham told the Tampa Bay Times that a White House official had told him the administration would reach a decision in “one to two months.”
“From the day he took office, President Obama committed his Administration to work towards unprecedented openness in government,” Price said. “That commitment has extended to the national security realm, where this Administration time and again has demonstrated its willingness to declassify and release, consistent with national security prerogatives, information deemed to be in the public interest.”
But the Obama administration has also had nearly eight years to disclose the information. Much of the contents of the 28 pages are generally known. Indeed, an episode of “60 Minutes” on Sunday featured interviews with Graham and others who laid out much of what’s alleged in the famously redacted section of the report.
“I think it is implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many of whom didn’t have a high school education, could’ve carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States,” Graham told “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft.
“You believe that support came from Saudi Arabia?” Kroft asked.
“Substantially,” Graham replied.
“And when we say, ‘The Saudis,’ you mean the government…rich people in the country? Charities?”
“All of the above,” Graham said.
The former senator told The Daily Beast last year that if the network of support that allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur is not exposed, it would continue to flourish. Keeping the pages classified is part of “a general pattern of coverup” that for years has kept the American people in the dark, Graham said.