Amid the clamor a year ago to release 28 still-secret pages of a congressional inquiry into the September 11 attacks, the government quietly declassified a little-known report listing more than three dozen people who piqued the interest of investigators probing possible Saudi connections to the hijackers.
The document, known as “File 17,” offers clues to what might be in the missing pages of the bipartisan report about 9/11.
“Much of the information upon which File 17 was written was based on what’s in the 28 pages,” said former Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida, co-chairman of the congressional inquiry.
He believes the hijackers had an extensive Saudi support system while they were in the United States.
“File 17 said, ‘Here are some additional unanswered questions and here is how we think the 9/11 Commission, the FBI and the CIA should go about finding the answers,’ ” Graham said.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir denies any allegations of Saudi complicity, telling reporters in Washington earlier this month that there is “no there there.”
Former President George W Bush classified the 28-page chapter to protect intelligence sources and methods, although he also probably did not want to upset US relations with Saudi Arabia, a close US ally.
Two years ago, under pressure from the families of those killed or injured on September 11, and others, President Barack Obama ordered a declassification review of the 28 pages. It’s unclear when all or some may be released.
The report by the two researchers, one of several commission documents the National Archives has reviewed and released, lists possible leads the commission could follow, the names of people who could be interviewed and documents the commission might want to request in looking deeper into the attacks.
File 17, first disclosed by 28pages.org, an advocacy website, names people the hijackers were in contact with in the United States before the attacks. Some were Saudi diplomats, raising questions about whether Saudi officials knew about the plot.
The 9/11 Commission’s final report stated that it found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al-Qaida. “This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaida,” the report said.
Releasing the 28 pages might answer some questions, but the disclosure also could lead to more speculation about the key Saudi figures investigated by the US after the attacks.