President Obama is scheduled to leave on a trip to Saudi Arabia this week and continues to face an issue that has gone unresolved since the 9/11 attacks. The question currently being asked is whether Saudis play some role in supporting the hijackers responsible for the attacks. The 28-pages included in an in-depth review of the 9/11 attacks, are sealed behind a locked vault in the basement of the U.S. Capitol. Only a select few have been permitted to see the document.
The 28 pages documenting Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers were redacted in 2003, when the 838-page report was released, due to national security concerns. that piece of the investigation into the worst terrorist attack on US soil is still – very controversially – under wraps. The pressure comes amid rising tensions in US-Saudi relations, with the Sunni Wahhabi kingdom – under an increasingly bellicose Salman – opposed to Washington’s overtures to its arch rival, Iran, which culminated in a nuclear deal last year. A decreasing US reliance on Saudi oil has further strained a bilateral relationship once considered too important to fray. Suddenly, realpolitik imperatives are not sufficient to silence the howls for accountability from the families of the 9/11 victims and the US public at large.
Former Senator Bob Graham told “60 Minutes” in an interview, “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 co-chaired the bipartisan joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures surrounding the attacks.
The White House says the Director of National Intelligence hopes to complete the review process by the end of the year. It also seems highly unlikely those pages will be made public before the president’s trip to Saudi Arabia. The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States has been described by senior administration officials as both complex and complicated. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he did not know if allegations of Saudi support for the hijackers might come up during the trip and pointed out the 9/11 Commission has already looked closely at that possibility and ruled it out.
Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of funding. But we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization,” Earnest quoted from the 9/11 Commission report.
The White House points to a past record of openness and transparency, including declassifying part of Senate’s report on the CIA interrogation program and making public instances in which non-combatants were killed in counterterrorism operations overseas.