For years, some current and former American officials have been urging President Barack Obama to release secret files they say document links between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Sept. 11 attacks.
Other officials, including the executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, have said the classified documents do not prove that the Saudi government knew about or financed the 2001 terrorist attacks, and that making the material public would serve no purpose.
Now, unsubstantiated court testimony by Zacharias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaida member serving life in federal prison, has renewed the push by those who want a closer look into whether there was official Saudi involvement with al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 hijackers. They say it should start with the release of 28 pages relating to Saudi Arabia from a joint congressional inquiry into the attacks.
“We owe the families a full accounting,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, a Democrat who has read the classified pages written in 2002. They were left out of the public versaion of the report on the orders of President George W. Bush, who said they could divulge intelligence sources and methods. Officials on both sides of the debate acknowledge that protecting the delicate U.S.-Saudi relationship also played a role.
Lynch and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., have sponsored a resolution that calls for declassifying the records. The White House has asked intelligence agencies to review the pages with an eye toward potential declassification, spokesman Ned Price said, but there is no timetable.
The controversy comes at a consequential moment in the relationship between the U.S. and the kingdom.