CIA chief says declassified pages of 9/11 report absolve Saudi Arabia
LONDON - The 28 pages omitted from the 9/11 Commission’s report will soon be made public, according to CIA Director John Brennan who emphasised in an interview that there was no evidence of official Saudi involvement in the 2001 attacks that resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people.
Brennan, in a June 11th interview with the Saudi-owned, Arabic-language news channel al-Arabiya, described the yet-to-be-declassified parts of the report a “preliminary review” put together a year after the tragic events, with information that had not been vetted or corroborated.
It “was a very preliminary review, trying to pull together bits and pieces of information, reporting about who was responsible for 9/11″, Brennan said.
“Subsequently the 9/11 Commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement, Saudi government involvement and their finding, their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi senior officials individually had supported the 9/11 attacks,” he added.
The assessment by the CIA chief comes at a time when not-yet-released sections of the 9/11 Commission’s report are central to a bill passed by the US Senate that would allow survivors and families of the victims of the terrorist attacks the right to sue the Saudi government for liability.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said US President Barack Obama would likely veto the bill. “This legislation would change long-standing international law regarding sovereign immunity,” Earnest said, “and the president of the United States continues to harbour serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.
“Given the concerns that we have expressed, it’s difficult to imagine the president signing this legislation.”
The Saudi government warned that, if the legislation was enacted, it would sell its US investments. A day before the Senate passed the bill, the US Treasury Department released a breakdown of the kingdom’s holdings of US debt, which stood at $116.8 billion as of March.
Consequently, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused the US Congress of “stripping the principle of sovereign immunity, which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle”.
Saudi officials on a number of occasions have called for the 28 pages of the commission’s report to be declassified, with Saud al-Faisal, then Saudi Foreign minister, requesting the White House to do so in 2004.
“We have nothing to hide and we do not seek nor do we need to be shielded,” Faisal said at the time. “We believe that releasing the missing 28 pages will allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner and remove any doubts about the kingdom’s true role in the war against terrorism and its commitment to fight it.”
In light of the visit to the United States by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Brennan described cooperation between the two countries on security matters as “excellent”.
“Over the last 15 years, the Saudis have become among our best counterterrorism partners and so with King Salman (bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) and the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, we feel as though we have really strong partners in this fight against terrorism,” he said.
With regards to the declassification of the final 28 pages, the matter is in the hands of the office of the US Director of National Intelligence, to review the material for possible public release. According to former US senator Bob Graham, who served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the White House is likely to make a decision on the matter before the end of June.