The 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passed last week, yet some potentially devastating answers remain concealed from the American people.
To what extent was the government of Saudi Arabia involved, directly or indirectly, in the murders of nearly 3,000 Americans?
Did it subsidize al-Qaeda terrorists in the United States under an extortionate deal with Osama bin Laden to keep them occupied elsewhere than in the Kingdom?
If so, did it know — or should it have known — that the “students” in question were planning massive mayhem here?
Those are secrets our government remains determined to keep. Neither Edward Snowden nor the former Bradley Manning came anywhere near them.
The questions and perhaps the answers are likely contained in the 28 pages that the Bush Administration withheld from the report of a congressional inquiry co-chaired by then-Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.
President George W. Bush claimed that it “would help the enemy,” and “compromise the investigation” to declassify those 28 pages. He also contended that it would “reveal sources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror.”
No secret keeps forever. When those 28 pages are finally exposed, even if long after the life of anyone now living, I believe history will treat Bush’s rationale as a deliberate and cynical deception.
In any case, that was 10 years ago. The al-Qaeda deputy who planned the attacks is a prisoner at Guantanamo. Osama bin Laden is dead. The methods and sources that led to them are known to the whole world through every form of media, including Hollywood’s.
No reason remains for President Obama not to declassify the 28 pages other than the enormous potential damage to relations with a government that can, almost single-handedly, control the price of oil.
It is no secret that those pages concern Saudi Arabia’s involvement with the airplane hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis. One uncensored section of the report traced money from the Saudi embassy in Washington to a Saudi living in San Diego who had extensive contacts with the first two terrorists to arrive in the U.S. The money was ostensibly for medical care for the man’s wife.
Graham has done everything but stand on his head to imply what damaging details remain hidden, including writing two books – “Intelligence Matters,” and a thinly veiled work of fiction, “Keys to The Kingdom.”
“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” Graham said in February 2012 in an affidavit in a massive lawsuit brought by families of the 9/11 victims against the Saudi government and others.
In another affidavit, former Sen. Bob Kerry of Nebraska, a member of the separate 9/11 Commission, said “significant questions” remain unanswered and that “evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents… has never been fully pursued.”
The Saudi government itself asked Bush to declassify the withheld section of the congressional report. Its foreign minister tacitly confirmed the thrust of the contents by denouncing it as an “outrage” that falsely accused his country of involvement in 9/11.
But it bears remembering that the Saudi royal family was so thick with our President that its ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar, was nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” In the days after 9/11, when the entire U.S. was a no-fly zone that stranded our citizens all over the world, only Saudi citizens –including Bin Laden relatives — were allowed to fly out.
When the Saudis asked Bush to release the 28 pages, did they have reason to know he would refuse?
And how could they be so certain of what the classified document had to say?
We have been fighting a war in Afghanistan for 12 years because 9/11 was launched from there. We made a long and costly war against a nation that had not attacked us, Iraq, in part because of false allegations that it was involved somehow.
Did we have cause also to attack Saudi Arabia? If so, why was it covered up?
Such questions are what Congress ought to be asking, but even the Democrats don’t seem to want to know any longer and the Republicans are obsessed with the Benghazi attack in which four Americans died.
The answers to these questions are not academic. Given the economic and political consequences, it’s obvious that we would not have attacked Saudi Arabia.
But if the Kingdom was complicit, billions of dollars in reparations are long overdue.
Not to mention a profound apology.