RIYADH (Dispatches) – The U.S. Justice Department is taking a fresh look at secret United States government documents about the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks with an eye on the Saudi role in the attacks.
The move, welcomed by President Joe Biden in a White House statement, comes as family members of many of nearly 3,000 victims of the 2001 attacks have demanded Biden act.
“As I promised during my campaign, my Administration is committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law, and to adhering to the rigorous guidance issued during the Obama-Biden Administration on the invocation of the state secrets privilege,” Biden said in a statement released on Monday by the White House.
“In this vein, I welcome the Department of Justice’s filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible,” Biden said.
In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, family members of victims have sought to pressure Biden to declassify 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, called on Biden to skip this year’s memorial events unless he releases the documents.
“Since the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission in 2004 much investigative evidence has been uncovered implicating Saudi government officials in supporting the attacks,” the letter stated.
“Through multiple administrations, the Department of Justice and the FBI have actively sought to keep this information secret and prevent the American people from learning the full truth about the 9/11 attacks,” the letter said.
Families of victims and their lawyers have complained for years that U.S. agencies were covering up documents describing Saudi Arabian links to the terrorist attacks and those who carried them out.
“We appreciate President Biden acknowledging our families today as we pursue justice and accountability against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Brett Eagleson, whose father Bruce Eagleson was killed in the terrorist attack, said. “Unfortunately, however, we have heard many empty promises before.”
Eagleson’s statement said the Justice Department “can act immediately to produce the documents including the unredacted 2016 FBI Review Report of the bureau’s years-long investigation of Saudi government agents who ‘are known to have provided substantial assistance to’ the hijackers, as well as phone records and witness statements.”
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the 2001 terrorist attack were from Saudi Arabia.