Last week we looked at the rumors (and they don’t seem to have been much more than that) suggesting that the White House was getting close to releasing the missing 28 pages from the 9/11 report. As I mentioned at the time, while many years have now passed since the attacks, the subject is turning into something of a hot potato for the Obama administration. People are demanding answers (including some Democrats in Congress) and enough time has passed that claims of sensitive national security information seem considerably more dubious. But we’ve got several irons in the fire with Saudi Arabia – particularly on the War on Terror front and the stability of the global oil market – and the President seems loathe to do anything to upset the apple cart.
Now another player has weighed in and it appears that the new explanation for keeping the lid on the pages is that they simply aren’t accurate.
CIA Director John Brennan said Sunday that releasing the 28 classified pages from the 9/11 Commission report would be a mistake because they contain inaccurate, un-vetted information that could be used to tie Saudi Arabia to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“This chapter was kept out because of concerns about sensitive methods, investigative actions and the investigation of 9/11 was still underway in 2002,” Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He said information in the 28 pages hasn’t been vetted or corroborated, adding that releasing the information would give ammunition to those who want to tie the terror attacks to Saudi Arabia.
As he further expanded upon his comments, Brennan only seemed to muddy the waters further. First of all, this report has been around for well over a decade. What does he mean that some of the information is “inaccurate or un-vetted” at this point? It’s understandable if the original report was still incomplete or in need of additional research back then, but surely every stone has been overturned by this point. The report could be updated with new, clarifying information. (And if that hasn’t already been done we need to be asking why.)
Brennan also repeats the administration line (in a slightly reworded form) that we should probably just accept the conclusions of the original committee in terms of their finding that there, “was no evidence that … Saudi government as an institution or Saudi officials or individuals had provided financial support to al Qaeda.”
Honestly, I’m not sure that anyone had ever suggested that high ranking members of the Saudi government were directly implicated, or at least in a way where there would be direct fingerprints to be found. To the extent that there’s a recognizable government in Saudi Arabia, the Al Saud, it’s pretty much just the King and some indefinable number of members of the extensive royal family. That’s where part of the problem comes in with this description of the contents of the report. The line where the Al Saud ends and “the rest of the royal family” begins is blurry at best. If there were some third cousins of a minor prince twice removed sending money to aspiring pilots in the United States in the late 90s, I suppose that wouldn’t count as someone who was part of “the Saudi government as an institution” or even any members of the Ulema or the Al ash-Sheikh, but it also doesn’t mean that nobody knew.
The Saudis definitely don’t want this report coming out and it seems as if there must be a reason for that. If it completely exonerated them, why would they care? Brennan’s comments about not wanting to falsely implicate anyone seem to indicate that there might be names named in there, or at least strong hints. And if our government does have some names and has done nothing to bring them to justice for more than a decade things are going to get rather uncomfortable in Washington very quickly.
Given all of that, the rumors about the release may indeed have been very premature. We wouldn’t want to get anyone needlessly upset now, would we?