A bill is fighting its way through Congress that would declassify 28 pages redacted from a report on 9/11 that could link the Saudi government to the attacks.
WASHINGTON– Sylvia Carver was near Washington, D.C., listening to the radio, when she heard that a plane had slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
She just knew, somehow, her sister Sharon, a Pentagon employee, was hurt. Carver called her sister’s phone over and over, but no one picked up.
“She always answered her phone,” Carver told MintPress News.
“Next thing you know, the whole city was in a panic,” chimed in Veronica Carver, another of Sharon’s surviving sisters also living in the area at the time. “The military was everywhere.”
With the streets closed to traffic and public transportation stopped, Sylvia and Veronica walked from downtown Washington, DC, to Pentagon City to see if they could find Sharon, but the chaos there ensured that they wouldn’t know anything for days to come.
Their worst fears were realized when authorities found Sharon’s body in the rubble on Sept. 17.
“It took over two years before we could even sleep through the night,” Sylvia said. “Even to this day, the family is in shock.”
The events of Sept. 11 gave President George W. Bush the public support he needed to engage in three wars: Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Terror.
However, despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers that day were citizens of Saudi Arabia, that nation disavowed any connection to the attack and escaped any condemnation by the United States.
Now, however, some members of Congress and the families of the victims of 9/11 want the light shone on the potential involvement of members of the Saudi ruling class.
Twenty-eight pages of a Congressional inquiry into 9/11 have been redacted, and those pages could hold the answers the Carvers have been seeking since they lost their sister 13 years ago.
“We need the whole truth,” Sylvia said. “How can we get closure if we don’t know the whole truth?”
Finding the whole truth
In February 2002, the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence created a joint commission to investigate the events leading up to the attack. By the end of the year, the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001 released an 832-page report. It was soon made available to the public, with the exception of those 28 pages.
Unlike the 9/11 Commission established by President George W. Bush known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the Joint Inquiry specifically stated that finding fault was not the goal.
According to some members of Congress who have read the classified pages, the report does point fingers toward Saudi Arabia. Several members are now pushing HR 428, a bill urging President Obama to declassify the information, including original sponsors Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA).
“I do not believe that we as a nation will be strong unless we reveal what the 28 pages say,” said Jones.
Before the report was released to the public, the Bush administration classified those pages, citing “national security” interests. However, Jones said it is actually more of a case of national embarrassment over the United States’ cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia.
“I would not even be helping the 9/11 families if there was anything that would threaten the national security of this country,” Jones told MintPress. “Nothing in this report would do that.”
But the oil…
The United States imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than any other OPEC member. For years, it has been second only to Canada. In August 2001, the U.S. imported nearly 57 million barrels from Saudi Arabia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That level dropped after 9/11, but rebounded to 71 million barrels in May 2003. Last year, the U.S. imported nearly 485 million barrels from Saudi Arabia.
This dependence may have contributed to the U.S. overlooking the Saudi human rights record and a lack of democracy in the monarchical kingdom, among other things. Last year, Human Rights Watch gave Saudi Arabia a poor grade in its annual world report, citing “arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, suppression of “the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers,” “arbitrary detention” and “trials against half-a-dozen human rights defenders and several others for their peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms.”
“Many countries have problematic records, but Saudi Arabia stands out for its extraordinarily high levels of repression and its failure to carry out its promises to the Human Rights Council,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement session of the U.N. Human Rights Council last October.
While the U.S. often calls out members of the “Axis of Evil” nations such as Iran and North Korea for human rights abuses, seldom are there strong condemnations of Saudi Arabia. For example, when democratic activist Omar al-Saeed was prosecuted and sentenced to four years in prison, the U.S. stood silently by. Al-Saeed was the fourth member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association jailed last year for calling for greater democracy in the country.
That Saudi oil played such a significant role in keeping the American machine moving was not lost on the Bush family, which had made much of its wealth in the oil industry. In Craig Unger’s 2004 book “House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties,” he posited that the two powerful families had maintained a long relationship.
President George W. Bush dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to Saudi Arabia several times during his administration to talk with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, sometimes to discuss Iraq and Iran, but also to discuss fluctuating oil prices. Cheney, however, already had lucrative contact with the oil kingdom from his days heading Halliburton, and he was also spotted visiting the king in 2010, well after his term as vice president had ended.
However, if Bush’s family connections played a role in locking up the 28 pages of the report to protect the U.S.-Saudi relationship, it likely wasn’t the biggest factor, as evidenced by President Obama’s refusal to make the records public. In fact, in 2009, the Obama administration intervened in the 9/11 families’ lawsuit, requesting that the courts keep the information classified.
No “mutual respect”
Congressman Jones said the government is working against its own best interest.
“If we don’t have mutual respect, then there is no relationship,” he said. “It’s time for the truth to be the conversation and then we can deal with the relationships.”
Members of Congress who are briefed on classified materials are restricted from revealing their contents, but Jones and Lynch have said that they were “shocked” by what they learned from the redacted pages. Additionally, some information from those pages has leaked, including a reported CIA memo that claimed high-level Saudi diplomats and intelligence officers helped the hijackers logistically and financially.
Last year, the Broward Bulldog, an investigative website in Florida covering Sarasota, where members of the Saudi royal family had homes, obtained FBI records via Freedom of Information Act requests. The website determined that the “family who ‘fled’ their Sarasota area home weeks before September 11th had ‘many connections’ to ‘individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001,” according to those records.
“This was an act of war,” said Alice Hoagland, mother of Mark Bingham, one of the men credited with stopping Flight 93 from reaching its intended target — the White House — and forcing it to crash in a Pennsylvania field.
“We deserve to be safe and safe as we travel and live and work here in this country,” Hoagland told MintPress. “What slavish dependence on oil trumps that? What desire to curry the favor of some foreign kingdom trumps that?”