On Friday, 1,800 individuals affected by 9/11 signed onto a statement calling on President Joe Biden to refrain from taking part in events commemorating the 20th-anniversary of the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania because the president has reneged on his campaign pledge to declassify documents related to the attacks.
In an apparent attempt to defuse the controversy, Biden did the most Biden thing possible on Monday: Without promising the release of any information, he issued a statement reiterating the declassification pledge and saying he was pleased with Department of Justice court filing Monday that promised to conduct a “fresh review” of the documents.
“As I promised during my campaign, my Administration is committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law, and to adhering to the rigorous guidance issued during the Obama-Biden Administration on the invocation of the state secrets privilege,” Biden said in a White House statement.
“In this vein, 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.
“My heart and my prayers continue to be with the 9/11 families who are suffering, and my Administration will continue to engage respectfully with members of this community,” he added. “I welcome their voices and insight as we chart a way forward.”
Their “voices and insight” were pretty clear with Friday’s statement, released by survivors of the attack, surviving family members and first responders: Declassify the documents and level with the American people and the world about potential Saudi involvement in the attacks, or stay away from the memorials.
“We understand President Biden’s desire to mark the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary at Ground Zero. However, 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” to release the documents, the statement read.
“Since the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission in 2004 much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks. Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks,” it continued.
“Despite numerous requests by Democratic and Republican members of Congress and hundreds of 9/11 family members imploring previous and now the current administration to bring transparency to the matter, these efforts have been rebuffed and the issue has remained inexplicably ignored.
“As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and having been used as a political bargaining chip for two decades, our patience has expired. We had great hope that President Biden, who campaigned on bringing truth and trust back to the Oval Office, would value the lives and sacrifices of America’s citizens over diplomatic relations with a country accused of mass murder.”
“We are frustrated, tired and saddened with the fact that the U.S. government for 20 years has chosen to keep information about the death of our loved ones behind lock and key,” he said.
Eagleson is one of the family members left behind who has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Saudi Arabia of playing a role in the attacks.
It’s worth noting that prior administrations have refused to declassify the documents — including that of former President Donald Trump. While Trump had promised the families he would open up the FBI files, The New York Times noted Monday that in 2019, then-Attorney General William Barr decided the documents should stay sealed due to national security concerns.
In addition, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush refused to declassify the documents during their tenures. While the 9/11 Commission report called Saudi Arabia a “problematic ally,” it didn’t find the country’s leaders materially supported the terrorists. However, it did find Saudi government-funded charities played a role in bankrolling the attack.
During the campaign, Biden pledged in a letter to the families to push for transparency regarding the attacks.
“I intend to be a President for all Americans, and will hear all of their voices,” Biden wrote, according to NBC. “The 9/11 Families are right to seek full truth and accountability. … I will direct my Attorney General to personally examine the merits of all cases where the invocation of privilege is recommended, and to err on the side of disclosure in cases where, as here, the events in question occurred two decades or longer ago.”
His administration hadn’t moved a bit on it until Monday — which just so happened to be after the families issued their statement.
“The FBI has decided to review its prior privilege assertions to identify additional information appropriate for disclosure,” the Justice Department wrote in a letter to two federal judges, the New York Times reported. “The FBI will disclose such information on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible.”
That’s not likely to be good enough for the group that wants Biden to stay away from the commemorations.
“Twenty years later, there is simply no reason — unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise — to keep this information secret,” the group wrote in its statement.
“But if President Biden reneges on his commitment and sides with the Saudi government, we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11.”
It’s not good enough for Eagleson, either, who told NBC News it was the same kind of “delay tactics to protect the Saudi government and keep the American people in the dark.”
“The promise of a review is simply not enough,” he said. “Our expectation is that we will begin to receive the information we seek before the 20th anniversary.”
Don’t expect that to happen — and don’t expect Joe Biden to be welcomed by the families if he does show up at the memorials, no matter how “fresh” the “review” of the documents pertaining to Saudi involvement in 9/11 happens to be. After what he promised the families, this is an insult.
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