WASHINGTON – Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan spent a few weeks last fall writing letters asking for access to a classified 28-page document that talks about who financed the Saudi Arabian Al-Qaida terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Nolan got permission from House leaders to read the report and now wants everyone to be able to read what he did.
“I would question somewhat the sensitivity of all this. It may be more embarrassing than sensitive … for all the parties involved,” said Nolan, who read the report in a secure room in the basement of the U.S. Capitol that bans phones, cameras and recording devices.
Nolan, as well as a North Carolina Republican and several members of the House Intelligence Committee, are pushing President Obama to use executive authority to declassify the 28 pages, which he says clearly points out who furnished money and resources to those at least partly responsible for the terrorist attacks.
Nolan says transparency is important because it further illustrates “who our friends are and who are enemies are.”
Nolan and GOP Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina are leading a House resolution urging that the pages be unsealed — 42 members of Congress are in support so far.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, said Tuesday that the “benefits of publishing this information would outweigh any potential damage to America’s national security.”
The history of the sealed documents stretches back to the early 2000s when the pages were originally part of the 9/11 Commission Report, which was published in 2003. The Bush administration struck the pages from the report, saying that the details were classified. Various politicians and former members of the former 9/11 Commission have been pushing to get the details declassified for years.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four commercial airplanes and committed terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.; the fourth plane was taken down in rural Pennsylvania.
Of the 19 men, 15 were from Saudi Arabia. Members of the former 9/11 Commission and many politicians found it hard to believe that the men were able to establish themselves in the U.S. — most with limited English and limited educations — and learn how to speak English and learn to fly by enrolling in American flight schools without outside help.
Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen, pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiring to kill Americans as part of the Sept. 11 attacks. He attended flight school in Oklahoma and then Minnesota before he was arrested on immigration charges. He drew suspicion after asking flight instructors in Minnesota to teach him how to fly a Boeing 747.
There has been a review underway since 2014 about the secret 28 pages, and Obama administration officials say they are committed to more transparency.
Several members of the former 9/11 Commission — including former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former CIA Director Porter Goss — have requested that the documents be unsealed.
“It is significant that the people who led the joint inquiry all agree the 28 pages should be declassified and shouldn’t have been classified in the first place,” Jones said. “I will continue to work to see the 28 pages declassified so the American people will know the truth about Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks.”
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he didn’t know whether Obama has reviewed the documents or how long it would take to decide whether the information would be declassified.
“I can tell you that the president certainly does support being as transparent as possible, but he also believes that these national security officials have an important job to do to make sure that if secrets need to be kept that they can be,” he said. “This is part of a vigorous bureaucratic debate. And I know that ‘bureaucratic’ often has a negative connotation. I don’t necessarily mean it that way. I just mean that there are well-intentioned individuals with different points of view who can arrive at different conclusions.”