National Security

Democrats call for DOJ, FBI to declassify 9/11 intelligence related to Saudi Arabia

A group of Senate Democrats are repeating demands for the Justice Department and FBI to release key information about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that victims hope to use to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for alleged involvement.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are urging the Biden administration to review the decision by the Justice Department and FBI to withhold information under the “states secret privilege,” which has blocked 9/11 victims and their families from accessing information as part of their lawsuits against the government of Saudi Arabia for its alleged involvement in the attacks. 

They requested a response within two weeks. 

“For years, these survivors and family members have sought information from the DOJ and, in particular, the FBI, which has been withheld, purportedly for national security reasons,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, in fact, the reasons for continued concealment of this potentially critical evidence have never been credibly or adequately explained.”

The letter was sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray and comes months before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. 

Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day when hijackers associated with the terrorist group al Qaeda crashed planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another hijacked flight crashed in Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people on board, including the four hijackers.

Victims and the families of victims are party to a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia alleging Riyadh’s involvement in organizing the attack, but have failed to uncover key information that is blocked by the DOJ and FBI under the guise of the “states secret privilege.” 

The Democrats said the 9/11 families deserve a “fair day in court” with “access to evidence.” 

“DOJ must not gratuitously stand in their way. If there is any credible reason to withhold facts, testimony, and documents concerning the attacks and the FBI’s handling of subsequent investigations twenty years after 9/11, the American people deserve to know it,” they wrote. 

Wray, during a hearing with House lawmakers last month, said the FBI was working to “declassify as much information as we can and to share as much information as we can,” and that it was working with Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines.

“I’m happy to take a look with the DNI and others to see if there’s more information that can be declassified,” Wray said under questioning from lawmakers. 

Garland had made similar commitments to releasing information about the 9/11 attacks during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. Wray also had committed during the Trump administration, in 2019, to provide information, in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The senators, however, chastised the attorney general and FBI director for their continued silence on the matter. 

“The lengthy passage of time since the attacks creates powerful questions about the need for continued classification of documents and the ongoing withholding of related information,” they wrote.

Tags 9/11 attacks Avril Haines Bob Menendez Christopher Wray Kirsten Gillibrand Merrick Garland Saudi Arabia

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