- The Biden administration is looking to release more information from classified 9/11 documents.
- It comes after victims’ families said he wouldn’t be welcome at memorial events if he didn’t.
- Many of the bereaved believe that the documents evidence Saudi support in the terror attack.
President Joe Biden’s administration said it intends to declassify information from long-withheld files relating to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks after victims’ families said the president would not be welcome at memorial events otherwise.
The families believe the documents could detail Saudi leaders’ backing of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
An August 6 statement signed by the families and people closely affected by the attack — numbering almost 1,700 — ramped up pressure on Biden to fulfil a campaign promise to look again at the matter.
Following that statement, Justice Department officials said in a Monday letter that the FBI — which has privileges over the contents — will aim to “identify additional information appropriate for disclosure,” The New York Times reported.
The time frame and exact extent to which information will be released remain unclear, though the letter said the FBI would release information “on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible.”
In a Monday statement, Biden said: “I welcome the Department of Justice’s filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible.”
The files have so far been kept under wraps under national security guidance.
But last October, during his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden wrote to families to say he would work to release more information. The FBI would “narrowly tailor” its privilege to withhold information “only to the extent necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security,” he said at the time.
The Attorney General, he had promised, would be instructed to “err on the side of disclosure.”
With their August statement, the victims’ families had placed Biden under intense pressure to take action, asserting that continued blocking of the documents would amount to siding with the Saudi government.
Moreover, they warned, with the 20th anniversary memorial coming up next month, if Biden were to walk back his campaign promise, “we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11.”
“We cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,” it said.
The 9/11 Commission report, released 2004, concluded that there was “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attack. The kingdom denies any involvement.
However, the report’s narrow wording has fueled speculation.
In April 2016, Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and GOP Rep. Porter Goss — two former lawmakers and members of the congressional inquiry into the attack — called on the Obama government to release the “28 pages,” a highly redacted report that Graham said he believed held evidence of Saudi involvement, as CBS reported at the time.