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More than 1,800 people affected by the 9/11 terror attacks have asked President Biden not to attend ceremonies commemorating the 20th anniversary of the tragedy next month unless he orders the release of documents they claim could show links between the Saudi government and Al Qaeda.
The statement, first obtained by NBC News and signed by nearly 1,800 survivors, first responders, and family members of victims, argues that since the 9/11 Commission issued its final report in 2004, “much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks.
“Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks,” it continues.
“Despite numerous requests by Democratic and Republican members of Congress and hundreds of 9/11 family members imploring previous and now the current administration to bring transparency to the matter, these efforts have been rebuffed and the issue has remained inexplicably ignored.”
The signatories also claim that then-candidate Joe Biden told them in an October 2020 letter that he would instruct the Justice Department to “err on the side of disclosure” in the matter. However, with the landmark anniversary of the attacks looming next month, they say, “having been used as a political bargaining chip for two decades, our patience has expired.”
“Twenty years later, there is simply no reason — unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise — to keep this information secret,” the statement adds.
What the Saudi government knew about the 9/11 plot and when they knew it remains one of the few unanswered questions about the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.
The executive summary of the 9/11 Commission report described the Riyadh government as “a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism.” However, the report concluded that it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
In 2016, 28 pages from a 2002 congressional report into US intelligence activities before and after 9/11 were declassified. The report named individuals who knew some of the 19 hijackers after they arrived in the United States and helped them get apartments, open bank accounts and connect with local mosques.
Lawmakers also found some hijackers had connections to, and received support from, people who may be connected to the Saudi government. The report added that information from FBI sources suggested at least two people who assisted the hijackers may have been Saudi intelligence officers.
However that report didn’t reach a conclusion on complicity in the attacks, saying while it was possible the interactions could reveal proof of Saudi government support for terrorism, there were also possibly more innocuous explanations for the associations.
Earlier this year, two Saudis named in the 2002 report, along with a former official at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, were deposed in connection with a long-running lawsuit filed by the relatives of victims. However, transcripts of those sessions remain sealed and the US government has withheld a trove of other documents under a so-called “state secrets” privilege meant to avoid jeopardizing national security.
Andrew Maloney, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, told the Associated Press last month that they hope Saudi Arabia will compensate victims’ families, accept responsibility and commit to root out terrorism.
In response to Friday’s statement, a White House spokesperson told NBC News: “Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, especially in these days preceding the 20th anniversary of the attacks … We look forward to having more to share in the coming days about actions we are taking to ensure greater transparency under the law.”
With Post wires
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