What we know from the New York Post’s report on the claim from Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch and Republican Rep. Walter Jones is that two administrations have kept 28 pages of a 2002 report on the 9/11 so highly classified that they don’t contain redactions — just an ellipsis noting their absence. Lynch and Jones claim that the report from Congress after the attacks that left 3,000 Americans dead contain material that “absolutely shocked” them — and pins the blame on Saudi Arabia for state support of the attack:
President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).
A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.
Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can’t reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they’ve proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”
Some information already has leaked from the classified section, which is based on both CIA and FBI documents, and it points back to Saudi Arabia, a presumed ally.
The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, but the CIA in one memo reportedly found “incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically. The intelligence files cited in the report directly implicate the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles in the attacks, making 9/11 not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war.
Three years later, Congress — essentially the same Congress, by the way — produced another report on the 9/11 attacks that didn’t make these accusations, nor the specific allegations mentioned by Paul Sperry in this article. (Be sure to read it all.) Congress would have had the ability to refer to its own materials, one would presume anyway, and clearly the minor changes in the 2002 midterms wouldn’t have wiped out the memories of those who worked on the 2002 report. That leaves a big question as to whether this intel Sperry cites may have later been discredited, or whether the executive branch interfered with one or both reports.
Why would the Bush administration interfere with the report? Saudi Arabia was a strategic partner for the US in the region, but hardly our only option. If what Lynch and Jones claim is true, the US would have been forced to declare war on Saudi Arabia, which would have touched off a much wider war, especially if we had gone after the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, as was being suggested anyway at the time by some public figures as retaliation for the terrorist attack. Covering up their involvement would still leave the US covering up an act of war out of what can only be charitably called an overabundance of caution. If the Saudis declared war on us, then we should have responded in kind or forced a very public surrender on our terms.
That still doesn’t explain why the successor Obama administration would have kept this locked away if the data was accurate and conclusions correct, assuming that’s what the report says. Democrats spent years floating conspiracy theories about the Bushes and the Saudis — and this would have been the smokiest smoking gun of all. It would have helped Obama explain and draw support for his decision to warm up to Iran and snub Saudis over the last few months, if not the last few years.
If I had to guess, I’d say the reason it remains classified is that the data may not be as solid as it appears, but we’re not going to know that until it’s actually declassified. More than 12 years after the attack, it’s time to see that initial review of the intelligence and let the American people make up their own minds about it.