The report of the congressional joint inquiry on the September 11 attacks was released in 2003. At page 396 of the report, a yawning gap appears. All 28 pages of part four of the report, a section entitled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters,” had been redacted in their entirety.
Inquiries established that, while withholdings were technically the responsibility of the CIA, the Agency would not have obstructed release of most of the twenty-eight pages. The order that they must remain secret had come from President Bush himself.
The Democratic and Republican chairmen of the Joint Committee, Senator Graham and Senator Richard Shelby, felt strongly that the bulk of the withheld material could and should have been made public. “I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly,” Shelby said. “My judgment is that 95% of that information could be declassified, become uncensored, so the American people would know.”
Know what? “I can’t tell you what’s in those pages,” the Joint Committee’s staff director Eleanor Hill was to say. “I can tell you that the chapter deals with information that our Committee found in the CIA and FBI files that was very disturbing. It had to do with sources of foreign support for the hijackers.” The focus of the material, leaks to the press soon established, had been Saudi Arabia.
Within weeks of his inauguration in 2009, Bush’s successor Barack Obama made a point of receiving relatives of those bereaved on 9/11. The widow of one of those who died at the World Trade Center, Karen Breitweiser, has said that she brought the new President’s attention to the infamous censored section of the Joint Committee Report. Obama told her, she said afterwards, that he was willing to get the suppressed material released. Five years later, the victims families are still waiting.
Senator Graham has fought tirelessly for the release of those 28 pages since the report’s original publication. We, too, along with our colleague Dan Christensen of the Broward Bulldog have pushed for their release, along with other material that might shed light on the Saudi role. We are glad to see that there is now – thanks to pressure by the survivors group “9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism” – fresh political will to make the release a reality.