It may be only a month or two before a morally repugnant stain is removed from the collective consciousness of two presidential administrations and Congress.
For 13 years, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Congress have collectively worked to seal 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report that details a connection between the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In 2003, 46 Senators wrote a letter to then-President Bush urging their de-classification. It was never done.
In 2009, Obama promised to declassify those 28 pages in a face-to-face meeting with the families of the 9/11 victims. The pledge remains unfulfilled.
All three parties are at fault. Under the rules of both the House and Senate Intelligence committees, Congress could vote to declassify documents.
Everyone who has seen the documents is sworn to secrecy. They include senators and congressmen – who are shuffled into a vault controlled by the Capitol Police. No staff or aides allowed.
When they come out, they say they are shocked and aghast at what’s being hidden – they all say it details a connection between either the Saudi royal family, the Saudi government itself or Saudi-run charities and the terrorists – or all three. But they can say no more. They are threatened with prison if they disclose the contents of documents that are classified.
Former Sen. Bob Graham – who has seen the 28 pages – has been pushing for the 28 pages to be released since they were classified. Appearing on 60 Minutes last weekend, he was asked if he believes support for the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.
“Substantially,” he said.
CBS’s Steve Kroft pushed Graham: “And when we say ‘The Saudis,’ you mean the government? Rich people in the country? Charities?”
“All of the above,” the former Florida senator replied.
Obama is planning a trip to Saudi Arabia next week and there are strong indications he plans to declassify the 28 pages. Sources close to the administration say he’s resolute in living up to his promise to the 9/11 victims. Congress is also close to passing a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the attacks.
Knowing this, the Saudis are desperate to stop the release. This week, they threatened the Obama Administration with massive economic fallout if the pages are released, The New York Times is reporting.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to 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.
Several outside economists are skeptical that the Saudis will follow through, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the kingdom’s economy. But the threat is another sign of the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Obama has tried to lobby Congress against passage of the bill, but he still plans on declassifying the documents within a “month or two.”
When he does, it will right a wrong committed against the 9/11 victims and all American citizens 13 years ago.