On Friday, July 15, the Obama White House released a redacted copy of the missing 28 page chapter from the original December 2002 Joint Congressional Joint Inquiry report on 9/11. The timing of the release was calculated to minimize the blowback from the long-overdue release of the chapter. Congress went into summer recess until after Labor Day, just hours before the 28 pages were made public through the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The attention of most Americans was immediately focused on the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions.
However, anyone carefully reading the 28 pages would realize that the Congressional investigators working for the Joint Inquiry had gathered a significant number of leads on Saudi officials and members of the Saudi Royal Family, who had either had direct contact with the 9/11 hijackers while they were in the United States preparing for the terrorist extravaganza, or had been implicated in financial and other support for Al Qaeda. The Joint Inquiry was restricted by its limited legislative mandate, the lack of time and financial resources. They were really only able to review existing files from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies, and interview some agents who had investigated Al Qaeda prior to 9/11. And they did not always find the agencies cooperative. The Saudis attempted to block the investigation and provided virtually no answers to the questions the inquiry's investigators posed to them.
This limit on the Joint Inquiry probe was reflected in a 2003 memorandum by the two 9/11 Commission staffers who had written the forbidden chapter. Document 17, as it was described by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the highest executive branch authority on document declassification, was a 47-page memo by Dana Lesseman and Michael Jacobson, spelling out all of the leads on Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers that the Joint Inquiry had been unable to pursue. According to John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy to Ronald Reagan and a member of the 9/11 Commission, the Commission itself had been unable to complete their mandate, and had been unable to pursue all of the Saudi leads before their deadline expired. Furthermore, the Commission's staff director, Philip Zelikow, was a plant, informing the George W. Bush White House and his former boss, Secretary of State Condi Rice, about everything unearthed by his staff. Ultimately, Zelikow fired Lesseman for her persistence in pursuing the Saudi file.
The bottom line: There is more work to be done. Sept. 11, 2016 is the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks, and there will be significant public attention. When Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day, just before the 9/11 anniversary, the House is expected to pass the Justice Against Supporters of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a bill that would allow the survivors and family members of the 2,977 people killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi Kingdom, by lifting sovereign immunity in specific cases where regimes support terrorist attacks on US soil. Members of Congress are also contemplating the next step in pursuing the Saudi file, including potential legislation to launch a de novo inquiry.
Timing is everything, and the timing of George Bush's decision to classify the 28 page chapter is a perfect case in point. In December 2002, when the President banned the publication of the chapter, the Administration was in the final phases of planning the invasion of Iraq. The two "reasons" given for the plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein were: He was amassing weapons of mass destruction, and he had been behind 9/11.
Had the chapter been published, it would have been near impossible for Bush and Tony Blair to get away with the Iraq invasion. It would have been like FDR announcing he was declaring war against China, not Japan after Pearl Harbor.
The issues behind the evidence of Saudi involvement in 9/11--whether at the very top of the regime and the Monarchy, as former Joint Inquiry co-chairman Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) insists, or at some mid-level where Al Qaeda sympathizers had resources to pour into the 9/11 plot--are still with us, and will not be laid to rest by the release of the 28 pages. Harper