The 28 Pages
The 28 Pages refers to a section at the end of the December 2002 report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that contains details of foreign state sponsor support for Al-Qaeda prior to the attack and the Saudi connection to the hijackers. The pages explain that some of the September 11 hijackers received assistance and financial support from individuals connected to the Saudi Arabian government, including Saudi intelligence officers, embassy staff, and members of the Saudi royal family.
In 2016, following a declassification review, the Obama Administration approved the declassification of the partially redacted 28 Pages, the Joint Inquiry’s only wholly classified section. The document was then sent to congressional leadership and on July 15, 2016, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence approved publication of the newly declassified section.
The 28 pages are from a redacted section of the 422-page inquiry commission report on the 9/11 attacks that include controversial clues linking elements of the Saudi Arabian government and the hijackers. Some leaked information from CIA and FBI documents allege that there is "incontrovertible evidence" that Saudi government officials, including from the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles, gave the hijackers both financial and logistical aid. Among those named were then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and Osama Bassnan, a Saudi agent, as well as American al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta, and Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd.
In July 2016, the U.S. government released a document, compiled by Dana Lesemann and Michael Jacobson, known as "File 17", which contains a list naming three dozen people possibly, among them Fahad al-Thumairy, Omar al-Bayoumi, Osama Bassnan and Mohdhar Abdullah, connecting the Saudi state to the hijackers. According to the former Democratic US Senator Bob Graham, “Much of the information upon which File 17 was written was based on what’s in the 28 pages.”
The 28 pages state that some of the September 11 hijackers received financial support from individuals connected to the Saudi Government. FBI sources believed that at least two of those individuals were Saudi intelligence officers. The U.S. Intelligence Community believed that individuals associated with the Saudi Government had ties to al-Qaeda.
Plaintiffs in a major 9/11 lawsuit have alleged that a November 1999 attempt by two men with longstanding ties to the Saudi government—Mohammed al-Qudhaeein and Hamdan al-Shalawi—to get inside an America West Airlines plane's cockpit was "a dry run for the 9/11 attacks." The FBI reportedly confirmed that the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. paid for Qudhaeein and Shalawi's tickets to board that flight. The 28 Pages quoted a document from the FBI's Phoenix Field Office as stating: "Phoenix FBI now believes both men were specifically attempting to test the security procedures of America West Airlines in preparation for and in furtherance of UBL [Osama bin Laden]/Al Qaeda operations."
Attempts for declassification
The Bush administration classified the 28 pages of the congressional report, allegedly to "protect intelligence sources."
In July 2003 Senator Bob Graham pressed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to release the material, per its authority under Senate Resolution 400, which established the Committee in 1976. However, the committee did not vote and his request was merely denied. Then-chair Senator Pat Roberts, (R-Kan.) and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) wrote Graham that "it is our view that release of additional information from Part Four could adversely affect ongoing counterterrorism efforts." Graham later said the response showed that the Intelligence Committee had shown "a strong deference to the executive branch." In the same month, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) joined approximately 42 Democratic senators in calling on President Bush to release the 28-page section which was censored for "national security reasons". Senator Graham stated the refusal "is a continuation of the pattern of the last seven months-a pattern of delay and excessive use of national security standards to deny the people the knowledge of their vulnerability."
In December 2013 Representatives Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) proposed Congress pass a resolution urging United States President Barack Obama to declassify all of the 2002 report. House Resolution 428 of the 113th Congress had 10 co-sponsors as of September 2014.
Family members of September 11 victims have said that President Obama told them both individually and in a group setting that he would release the documents so they could know the truth. The documents also would be used to support lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for complicity in the attacks and deaths. Families have worked closely with Representatives Jones and Lynch on de-classifying the documents. In June 2014, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the Government of Saudi Arabia, letting the lower court's ruling stand. The lower court's ruling permits families, as well as insurance companies which paid large claims after the attacks, to sue Saudi Arabia; this allows attorneys to begin collecting documents and deposing witnesses. In April 2016, it was reported that the Obama administration was "likely" to release "at least part" of the 28-page section and that a final decision on whether or not to release the documents would be made by June.
Saudis have welcomed declassification of the 28 pages because they argue that it would “allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner”.
On July 14, 2016, during the 2016 Republican National Convention, a plank to fully declassify the 28 pages was removed the party's platform. John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and Representative Walter B. Jones Jr. supported the release. Steve Yates led the successful effort to remove the plank.
United States' intelligence agencies declassified the pages, and Congress publicly released the pages with some parts redacted on July 15, 2016.
Location of the document
The document is kept in a secure room in the basement of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. This part of the congressional report was classified "Top Secret" by the George W. Bush administration. Since then, attempts have been made to declassify the redacted pages by senators and political activists, among them former chairman of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the co-chairman of the joint congressional panel, Bob Graham.
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- For a searchable version: The full text of Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001/Part 4 (Declassified) at Wikisource
- 28pages.org: An information & activism hub for the growing movement to declassify 28 pages on foreign government ties to 9/11