Here's a preview of my new program, "Full Measure," which begins Sunday mornings Oct. 4. This story looks at shocking secrets the U.S. government is still keeping 14 years after 9/11.
Fourteen years after Sept. 11, 2001, one of the last, great mysteries surrounding the terrorist attacks has yet to be unmasked: 28 pages from the Congressional probe that have been kept secret from the public under two U.S. administrations. The pages were classified under the George W. Bush administration -- and are still hidden from public view today under Barack Obama. There are bipartisan calls to make them public. And accusations that those who want to keep them classified aren’t protecting national security interests….but something--or somebody--else.
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It was the morning of September 11, 2001. As the eyes of the world were fixed on the terrorist attacks, a special election was being held in Massachusetts where Stephen Lynch quietly won a vacant Congressional seat.
So it may be fitting that today, Congressman Lynch is devoting a great deal of effort to revealing long held secrets from Congress’ 9/11 investigation.
Lynch says that when he read the 28 pages, “I thought this information is something that the public should have.”
No ordinary American can view them. And members of Congress, sworn to secrecy, are only permitted to read the 28 pages under strict conditions.
“You had to make an appointment with the intelligence committee,” says Lynch. “And also go to a secure location. They, they take your pen, paper, electronics. You sit in a room and they watch as you read it.”
In October of 2013, Lynch went to the secret room in the basement of the Capitol and began reading. The censored material begins on page 395 under the heading, “…Certain Sensitive National Security Matters.”
Lynch says, “It gave names of individuals and entities that i believe were complicit in the attacks on september eleventh. They were facilitators of those attacks and they are clearly identified. How people were financed, where they were housed, where the money was coming from, you know the conduits that were used and the connections between some of these individuals.”
Individuals, he says, who were never brought to justice. But who are they? And why would the U.S. government want to keep the information secret?
Former Senator Bob Graham thinks he knows. He co-authored the Congressional report, including the 28 pages.
In a news conference earlier this year, Graham said, “Here are some facts. The Saudis know what they did. Second, the Saudis know that we know what they did.”
Graham has become a relentless advocate for releasing the records. He goes so far as to say the 9/11 Islamic extremist hijackers were only successful due to direct support from prominent Saudis named in the 28 pages. The Saudis deny that.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Their leader, al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was part of a powerful Saudi family with close ties to the royal family.
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“The position of the united states government has been to protect saudi arabia at virtually every step of the judicial process,” said Graham.
And that may be the problem-- could the 28 pages unravel the alliance between the U.S. and a close Arab ally in the Mideast?
Terry Strada of New Jersey thinks that relationship is secondary to her right to know what’s in the withheld pages. She lost her husband Tom, a bond broker, in the World Trade Center on 9/11. The couple’s third child was just four days old.
She’s leading a fight to expose the names of those in the 28 pages who allegedly provided the means for the terrorists.
“Without money, terrorist organizations cannot exist. It is the lifeblood of terrorism,” says Strada. “As long as there are well-funded terrorist organizations out there vowing to kill, and destroy us here on our homeland and abroad, we will never be safe.”
Strada’s coalition has made repeated pleas in letters to President Obama.
“We have not heard back from the administration at all,” she says.
We asked Lynch if somebody has put out an official reason why the pages are still classified.
“Having read the 28 pages, I think it’s to, to allow those individuals to escape accountability,” Lynch replied.
Plenty of Democrats and Republicans have supported the need for secrecy over the years on national security or other grounds. We contacted more than a dozen key members of Congress, but none of them would discuss their position on camera.
Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra read the 28 pages a decade ago when he headed the House Intelligence Committee.
“I think in terms of diplomatic relationships, it may be very, very sensitive,” Hoekstra says.
Today, Hoekstra is a business consultant—and he agreed to explain the rationale of those protecting the secrecy of the 28 pages because of what they imply about Saudi Arabia or other U.S. allies.
Hoekstra says, “I think they’re concerned it may be embarrassing to the countries or the individuals that are talked about in that section and it’s a complication that they’d rather not deal with. They’re just saying ‘We’ve got enough problems. We’ve gotta deal with ISIS. We’ve gotta deal with Iran. We gotta deal with al Qaeda.”
Reports of a Saudi connection to 9/11 were furthered by none other than 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Last year, the al Qaeda member gave rare prison testimony for victims’ families suing Saudi Arabia for allegedly supporting terrorism.
Moussaoui testified it was his job in the late 90’s “to create a database” of al Qaeda donors. On that list, he claimed, were important Saudi royal family members and officials.
Attorney for the victims:
“The money that was coming from the Saudi donors, how important was it to bin Laden’s ability to maintain the organization?”
“It was crucial…without the money of the Saudi[s], you will have nothing…it was absolutely fundamental.”
Lawyers for Saudi Arabia deny any link to terrorism. They say there’s “no evidence the Saudis supported or caused the attacks,” calling Moussaoui’s comments "colorful but immaterial hearsay" from a convicted terrorist diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The Saudi embassy declined our interview request and referred us to a 2003 statement that said any idea they “funded, organized or even knew about September 11th is malicious and blatantly false….We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages.”
Today, there’s bipartisan support in Congress for a bill urging President Obama to release the 28 pages.
And Hoekstra says today, 14 years after 9/11, he’d have to come down on the side of disclosure.
“I mean, I really can’t come up with a good reason at this point in time any more to keep the pages classified,” says Hoekstra.
For now, when it comes to fully understanding the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil, what some view as a central chapter is written—but remains untold.
We asked Strada what her husband, Tom, would say about this issue.
“He would be laughing and saying ‘you go get ‘em Terry. You go get ‘em. Don’t let them get away with this. Don’t let them hide the truth. And don’t let the people that were behind it not pay. Not be held accountable’,” says Strada.
Lynch says, “Information such as this on such a profound scale should definitely be in the custody of the American public. We should know about this. This will inform us, this will help us. And there’s no reason why this information should not be made public.”