Do you remember my post of January 2, 2015, on how the Obama administration refused to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 report on foreign governments’ involvement?
In so doing, Obama was continuing what the George W. Bush administration had done, despite the fact that former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) — chairman of the congressional Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, which had issued the 9/11 report — declared that “there is compelling evidence in the 28 pages that one or more foreign governments was involved in assisting some of the hijackers in their preparation for 9/11.” Graham later indicated that by “foreign governments” he was referring to Saudi Arabia. (15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis.)
As recently reported by ZeroHedge, in 2013, conservative Congressman Walter Jones (R-N.C.) revived the push to declassify the 28 pages by sponsoring a House resolution because, as he put it, “the American people deserve the truth. Releasing these pages will enhance our national security, not harm it.” Jones has since become one of the most outspoken opponents of reckless U.S. intervention abroad.
Last May, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined the 28-page fight by introducing the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), but opposed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who instead urged deference to Obama’s judgment on the issue.
Members of Congress can read the still-classified pages in a special secure room on Capitol Hill if they get prior permission from the House or Senate Intelligence Committee. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), one of 18 co-sponsors of Jones’ resolution, is one of a few to have read the classified 28 pages. Massie was shocked: “I had to stop every couple of pages and just sort of absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history for the past 13 years and the years leading up to that. It challenges you to rethink everything.”
Said to have bankrolled the 9/11 attacks that launched the United States on its War on Terror which has cost thousands of American lives and more than $1.6 trillion, Saudi Arabia is widely reported to be bankrolling Islamic State terrorists throughout the Middle East. None other than Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee last September that “I know major Arab allies who fund [ISIS].”
Now that the heat is building for the Obama administration to declassify those mysterious 28 pages in the 9/11 report, the Saudi regime is resorting to outright threat and intimidation.
Mark Mazzetti reports for The New York Times, April 15, 2016, that Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the Saudis if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in U.S. courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered his government’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.
Saudi officials have long denied that the kingdom had any role in the Sept. 11 plot, and the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But critics have noted that the commission’s narrow wording left open the possibility that less senior officials or parts of the Saudi government could have played a role. Suspicions have lingered, partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States at the time had a hand in the plot. Those conclusions are contained in 28 suppressed pages of the 9/11 report.
Families of the Sept. 11 victims have used the courts to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism. But the families’ efforts have largely been stymied, in part because of a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in American courts.
The bi-partisan Senate bill, which passed through the Judiciary Committee in January without dissent, would make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.
Claiming that weakening the sovereign immunity provisions would put the American government, along with its citizens and corporations, in legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their own legislation, the Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon.
Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and who is part of a group of victims’ family members pushing for the bill, said, “It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens.”
Outside economists, however, are skeptical that the Saudis will follow through on their threats, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the kingdom’s economy.
The dispute comes as bipartisan criticism is growing in Congress about Washington’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, for decades a crucial American ally in the Middle East and half of a partnership that once received little scrutiny from lawmakers. But that alliance has frayed in recent years as the White House has tried to thaw ties with Iran — Saudi Arabia’s bitter enemy— in the midst of recriminations between American and Saudi officials about the role that both countries should play in the stability of the Middle East. Last week, two senators introduced a resolution that would put restrictions on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which have expanded during the Obama administration.