Nearly 15 years after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, President Obama must decide whether to release 28 pages of information withheld as classified from the publicly released report of the congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans.
On April 10, the CBS program “60 Minutes” aired a story about the missing 28 pages. I was one of several former public officials who called on the White House to declassify and release the documents.
Two days after that broadcast, I received a call from a White House staff member who told me that the president would make a decision about the 28 pages no later than June. While that official made no promises as to what Obama would do, I viewed the news as a step in the right direction.
My optimism about the administration’s action on this critical issue was short-lived. On May 1, when CIA Director John Brennan appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” I watched with astonishment as he argued that the 28 pages should not be released because the American people are incapable of accurately evaluating them.
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When asked by host Chuck Todd to make the case against releasing the information, Brennan replied, “I think some people may seize upon that uncorroborated, unvetted information that was in there, that was basically just a collation of this information that came out of FBI files, and to point to Saudi involvement, which I think would be very, very inaccurate.”
With all due respect, that argument is an affront not only to the American public in general but also to all those who lost family members, loved ones and friends on that fateful September day in 2001. Americans are fully capable of reviewing the 28 pages and making up their own minds about their significance.
As co-chairman of the Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I have read the 28 pages.
My oath of confidentiality forbids me from discussing the specifics of that material. But while I cannot reveal those details, I strongly believe the American people deserve to know why this issue is so important.
The release of the 28 pages would allow the American people to evaluate important questions, such as:
▪ Should we believe that the 19 hijackers – most of whom spoke little English, had limited education and had never before visited the United States – acted alone in perpetrating the sophisticated Sept. 11 plot?
▪ Did the hijackers have foreign support? If so, who provided it?
▪ Has the 13-year delay in empowering the American people with the information in the 28 pages affected national security, delayed justice to the families of the nearly 3,000 Americans killed on Sept. 11 or undermined the confidence of the American people in their federal government?
Bob Graham is a former Democratic U.S. senator from Florida.