9/11 families pressure Biden to declassify US files on Saudi role

Survivors push for clarity as the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks that killed nearly 3,000 nears.

The 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, DC, is coming up next month [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

Family members of the victims of the September 11 attacks are opposing US President Joe Biden’s participation in memorial events unless he declassifies government documents that they contend will show Saudi Arabian leaders supported the attacks.

The victims’ family members, joined by first responders and survivors of the attack, released a letter on Friday as the attack’s 20th anniversary nears calling on Biden to skip this year’s memorial events unless he releases the documents.

“Twenty years later, there is simply no reason – unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise – to keep this information secret,” the letter stated.

“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.”

In total, about 1,700 people directly affected by the September 11 attacks signed the letter. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request by the Reuters news agency for comment. Saudi Arabia has insisted it had no role in the attacks.

Family members of the September 11 victims have long sought US government documents related to whether Saudi Arabia aided or financed any of the 19 people associated with al-Qaeda who carried out the devastating attack.

Al-Qaeda operatives crashed three commercial jet planes into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, DC.  A fourth hijacked place believed to be targeting the US Capitol building crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died.

White House officials have had several meetings with groups representing the September 11 families regarding their document requests, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

“Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, especially in these days preceding the 20th anniversary of the attacks coming up just next month,” Psaki said.

Biden is committed to “work constructively on resolving issues” through the Justice Department related to making public still secret US documents, she said.

Senator Bob Menendez and five other Democratic senators announced the introduction of legislation to require the declassification of US information from federal 9/11 investigations still being kept secret [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

On Thursday, a group of influential US senators announced support for a bill that would push the Justice Department, the CIA and Director of National Intelligence to release additional information about the September 11 attacks.

“If the United States government is sitting on any documents that may implicate Saudi Arabia in the events of 9/11, these families and the American people have a right to know,” said Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. A US government commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded al-Qaeda. It left open whether individual Saudi officials may have.

Saudi Arabia is being sued for billions of dollars by the families of roughly 2,500 of those killed, and by more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies