Pressure is mounting on the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to publicly release documents pertaining to the role of the Saudi government in the September 11 terror attacks ahead of the 20th anniversary.
On Wednesday, a group of GOP lawmakers wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland making the plea, while Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, made a similar case to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
‘We call on the Department of Justice to immediately declassify and publish these reports to the American public,’ wrote five House Republicans, in an effort spearheaded by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York. ‘The Biden administration has voiced its commitment to transparency at every level of federal government.
On Wednesday, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (left), a New York Republican, led a GOP effort to have Attorney General Merrick Garland release secret 9/11 files, while Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch made a similar ask to FBI Director Christopher Wray
Nearly 20 years after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the victims’ families still don’t know the full story of whether Saudi government officials assisted the hijackers
‘Our 9/11 families and the American people expect the DOJ to make good on that commitment,’ wrote Malliotakis and Republican Reps. Brian Mast, Thomas Massie, Gus Bilirakis and Maria Elvira Salazar.
Both Deutch and the Republicans are particularly interested in the April 2016 Operation Encore Final Report, which was the FBI’s investigation into Saudi government ties to the 9/11 hijackers, among other files.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi government continues to deny any involvment in the attack, which killed 2,751 people in the initial assault in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
Hundreds more, including droves of first responders, have subsequently died from illnesses related to dust exposure.
The letter, the Republicans said, was written on behalf of the 9/11 community: ‘[V]ictims’ families, injured and sickened survivors, first responders and thousands of associated family members.’
‘These individuals bore witness to the most destructive and consequential attack on American soil this century, and for almost 20 years, have been deprived of due justice,’ they wrote.
Deutch said that in his role as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee he was aware of the ‘regional sensitivities’ involved in such a release – essentially it would anger the Saudis, who are a key partner of the U.S. in the Middle East.
‘But I firmly believe that given the time that has passed and the significant public reporting on these issues, the benefits of full public disclosure outweigh the costs of doing so,’ Deutch said.
Deutch and Mast have previously been involved in the effort to publicly release the files, while the other Republicans have newly signed on.
Brett Eagleson, a leading 9/11 family member who lost his father in the World Trade Center, applauded the lawmakers’ help.
‘It’s unconscionable to think that information about the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans 20 years ago is a “state secret,”‘ he told DailyMail.com Wednesday. ‘President Biden has the unique opportunity to do what three administrations before him failed to do, which is help the 9/11 community instead of instructing our government to provide cover for [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia].’
The letters came after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, expressed frustration to FBI Director Christopher Wray in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week that the committee couldn’t even get a classified version of the FBI’s 9/11 report
FBI Director Christopher Wray said some disclosures would be coming soon, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand pushing him to get new documents out to the public within the next two weeks, with an April 29 deadline
The letters come after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, spoke to Wray last week during a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing and complained that the committee couldn’t even get a classified version of the report from the FBI, calling it ‘deeply concerning.’
‘As we approach the 20th anniversary of the attacks, I’m trying to understand what information in the reports could still be so sensitive that it cannot be shared with the American people,’ Gillibrand said.
Wray pledged to release some material soon.
‘We do have to be careful here, because of certain source and method issues and grand jury issues, but I have instructed our subject matter experts to review to see if there’s more we can share, and I’m happy to report that we have identified some additional documents that we will be able to make available for review very shortly,’ the FBI director said.
Gillibrand asked that this happen in the next two weeks, with Wray replying that a forthcomng release was ‘consistent with that rough timeframe.’
‘OK. And if you’re not going to provide the particular document that I have requested, I need a reason in writing to the committee since as a member of the committee I have every right to review the document,’ Gillibrand added.
In Deutch’s letter, the Florida Democrat referenced the deadline, noting to Wray that it stood at April 29.
A renewed effort to see the 9/11 documents came in March after the Biden administration released documents in late February that said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
‘I don’t understand how our government can release the documents on the murder of one man two years ago but not the documents on the murder of 3,000 people 20 years ago,’ Eagleson told Yahoo News, which first reported the families’ request.
Nearly 2,000 family members of 9/11 victims signed on.
When DailyMail.com asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a March briefing if Biden backed the effort to release the FBI’s 9/11 files, she said that was a question for the Justice Department, which oversees the agency.
The DOJ, however, refused to comment.
In April 2020, the former attorney general, Bill Barr, and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell prevented the release of additional FBI disclosures that had been sought by the 9/11 families in their ongoing civil lawsuit against the Saudi government over the terror attack.
Barr, Grenell and other Trump administration officials used last-minute court filings to stop the release, arguing that the disclosures would imperil national security.
They couldn’t even reveal their justification for why the release could harm national security, because that could too, the officials argued, according to ProPublica’s reporting.
A lawyer for the families, Steven Pounian, told ProPublica at the time, ‘The extraordinary lengths that they’re going to here suggest that there must be some deep, dark secret that they’re still trying very hard to hide after almost 20 years.’
‘But who are they protecting?’ Pounian asked. ‘Something might be a Saudi government secret. But how can these be secrets that still need to be kept from the American people after all this time?’