Defense

Former senator: Inquiry over Saudi involvement in 9/11 is not over

Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) says the inquiry into Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks is not over. 

This summer, Graham fought to declassify 28 pages of a government-commissioned report, which he said showed links between the Sept. 11 hijackers and Saudi officials. 

After the pages were declassified on July 15, the Saudi government said they proved there was no involvement. But Graham said there is still much more information that needs to be released. 

{mosads}”[The 28 pages] is removing the cork from the bottle,” he said Wednesday at the National Press Club. “There is a significant amount of information which, like the 28 pages, has been withheld.” 

Graham said the inquiry summarized in the 28 pages were constrained by a tight deadline, availability of information and based mostly on only three of the 19 hijackers, who lived in San Diego. 

“The other 16 hijackers lived across the country, primarily in places like Florida, Virginia, New Jersey,” he said. “Investigations in those places have also been classified and withheld.” 

Furthermore, he said the FBI told him it had conducted a “complete investigation” into a prominent Saudi family who abruptly left their home near Sarasota, Fla., where three of the hijackers had spent time. The FBI said they had found “no connections” and that all information had been turned over to Congress. 

Graham said those statements were incorrect. Furthermore, he said he saw two reports from the investigating agent in charge, who said there were “many connections” between the three hijackers and the Saudi family. 

While the Sarasota investigation has been publicly released, he said those in other locations have not been. 

Graham said he hopes public pressure will force the administration to release those investigations. He also said people could submit a Freedom of Information Act request but joked that it took so long that petitioners should be required to also submit their life expectancy. 

But he also said another driving force could be legislation now pending in Congress.  

The Senate unanimously passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act earlier this year, and it is now pending in the House. The bill would allow Americans to sue the Saudi government in U.S. courts over 9/11. 

“I hope that [the House] will act during this session, ideally before the 15th anniversary of 9/11,” Graham said. 

Graham said he believes the Obama administration is trying to bury any information that could implicate Saudi Arabia for several reasons. 

The Bush administration suppressed information of Saudi involvement so it could focus on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as not to disrupt the U.S.-Saudi relationship, he said. The Obama administration, Graham added, is continuing to suppress information to preserve that relationship but also due to the belief that there is enough turmoil in the Middle East. 

After Graham’s appearance, the Saudi Embassy in Washington issued a statement rejecting “conspiracy thinking” 

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses once again its strong disappointment at Senator Bob Graham’s continued advocacy of the idea that the government of Saudi Arabia bore responsibility for the attacks of September 11, 2001,” it said in a statement. 

“Saudi Arabia has long called for the release of the classified 28 pages from the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 because we were convinced that they would reveal what they ultimately did reveal: that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided any support or encouragement for these attacks.”

Graham said he would continue this fight into the next administration. 

The former Florida governor, who supports Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said he is “pressing that point” with her campaign. 

But he also said Republican nominee Donald Trump has been helpful to his cause of getting more information released. 

Trump in February said on Fox News, “Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.” Trump has said he would stop buying oil from the country unless it provided ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

“I don’t know everything he said, so I’m not endorsing, blanket; but if what he has said would tend to lead toward release of this information, it’s very helpful,” Graham said. 

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