Clapper: June Release of Secret 9/11 Pages "Realistic"
The Obama administration believes it is a “realistic goal” to publicly release by June at least some classified information that explored Saudi links to the 9/11 terror attacks, the director of national intelligence said Monday.
“We are in the position of trying to coordinate an interagency position on the declassification of the 28 pages,” James Clapper told reporters, referring to a secret chapter drafted by an independent, bipartisan panel. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission, was directed in 2002 to report the facts of the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The 28 pages, locked away in the U.S. Capitol basement, examined whether the 19 hijackers received foreign support to plan, fund and execute the U.S. attacks. The commission reported there was “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the attacks, advocates releasing the information and said Sunday he had been told that President Obama and his advisers will decide by June how to handle the sealed documents that explored links between Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda strikes against Washington and New York. Fifteen of the 19 attackers were Saudis.
Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, has for years denied any official government ties to 9/11. Obama, who last week met Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, has vowed to veto a bipartisan bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, that would allow Americans injured in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to sue foreign governments that support terror.
“The whole notion of sovereign immunity is at stake. And it is one that has more significant consequences for the United States than any other country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said last week.
Clapper declined to elaborate on the interagency discussion under way when asked about the top-secret chapter kept out of public view for more than a dozen years. The national intelligence chief, who twice in an hour noted the “270 days” remaining before he leaves the administration on Jan. 20, fielded reporters’ questions during a roundtable event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
Asked to comment on GOP presidential candidates’ rhetoric about international issues, including defense, intelligence and terrorism, Clapper declined to discuss specific candidates.
“Certainly you worry about rhetoric on the campaign trail,” he said, adding, “I’m out of here on the 20th of January 2017.”
Clapper, who said his team has begun preparations to provide intelligence briefings to the nominees of both parties and the eventual president-elect, said some candidates and presidents confront a dangerous world in different ways.
“Once a president is inaugurated and is in office and realizes the burden and responsibilities of the position, I think that has a tempering effect on anyone. I think it will here, regardless of who is elected,” he said.
“I am struck by how simple things are on the campaign trail, and how those very same issues seem very hard in the confines of the [White House] Situation Room,” Clapper added.
“There are far more complexities, policy implications and legal implications to things than would appear on the campaign trail. I’m not going to cite any specific example, at risk of finger-pointing at one candidate or another.”