Preliminary decision on secret 9/11 pages expected this week

Preliminary decision on secret 9/11 pages expected this week
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The nation’s top intelligence official will tell the White House this week whether or not he supports declassifying 28 secret pages from a congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he told lawmakers on Tuesday evening.

Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesExperts warn Georgia's new electronic voting machines vulnerable to potential intrusions, malfunctions Georgia restores 22,000 voter registrations after purge Stacey Abrams group files emergency motion to stop Georgia voting roll purge MORE (R-N.C.), one of two sitting House lawmakers and a former senator to attend the 50-minute meeting, appeared hopeful that Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperHillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers National security leaders, advocacy groups urge Congress to send election funds to states Trump's actions on China speak louder than Bolton's words MORE would move to declassify the 28 pages, which are believed to detail suspected links between the government of Saudi Arabia and the al Qaeda hijackers.

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“He is going to, at the end of the week, send his recommendation to the White House,” Jones told The Hill in an interview in the Capitol on Wednesday.

“I felt like he feels that the families and the American people have a right [to see the pages],” Jones added. “But he didn’t say it. I have to be true about that.”

Also attending the Tuesday evening meeting was Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), both of whom have pressed repeatedly for the pages to be made public.

In recent weeks, they have expressed cautious optimism that their years of effort might be paying off.

“I think all three of us, when we got back in the car, we felt very encouraged that he is a very fair man, fair-minded man of integrity, who I think fully understands what were trying to do,” Jones said of Clapper on Wednesday.

The 28 classified pages from a 2002 joint congressional inquiry into 9/11, which Graham co-authored, are alleged to point to links between senior officials within the Saudi government and al Qaeda. Saudi leaders have denied any link to the terrorist group and have said that the pages should be released to quiet any rumors that have circulated.

Both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations have been under pressure for years to release the pages, but the effort has gained momentum in recent weeks amid a new apparent rift between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, the Senate easily passed a bill that would give victims of 9/11 an avenue to sue Saudi Arabia for any involvement in the terror attack. The White House has opposed the legislation, but its chances in the House could get a boost if the secret pages are released at some point this summer.  

After Clapper makes his decision on the matter, it is then expected to go before an interagency group, which will consider his recommendations alongside others. All told, it could still be weeks or months until the pages are released.

The Obama administration has said that it will make a decision about the 28 pages one way or the other in June.

According to Graham, the decision might then be kicked back to Congress.

“The surprise we heard was that after the president makes the decision about whether or not to release them, and if so in what form, they’ll send it back to Congress,” Graham told the Florida Bulldog.

“I don’t know where Clapper got this idea, and I hope it’s not just another stalling tactic.”

CIA Director John Brennan has been one of the few vocal critics of releasing the pages.

The classified pages contain “uncorroborated, unvetted information,” the CIA head has claimed. He has also noted that the 9/11 Commission report, which was released roughly two years after the congressional inquiry, looked into the matter and dismissed any suggestions that the Saudi government had any ties to al Qaeda.

If the White House does decide to declassify the 28 pages, it still might redact large portions of text, effectively leaving some of the pages secret.

Doing so could calm some critics, but certainly not all of them.   

“The American people need to feel good about the 28 pages,” Jones said on Wednesday. “You cannot redact this and that without raising questions of why did you do that.”