The nearly two-decade-long campaign by the families of victims of the September 11 2001 terror attack to expose the alleged role the Saudi Arabian government played has been given a new lease of life following a decision by President Joe Biden to offer his support into a "fresh review" of classified documents.
Biden had pledged to provide 9/11 survivors and family members with more transparency about unreleased documents the government has on the attacks. Victims' families have previously claimed that there are up to 25,000 pages of documents related to the attack that has been withheld from them.
Seeking to hold Biden to his pledge, victims' families wrote to the president last week and urged him not to participate in any memorial events for the 20th anniversary of the attacks next month unless he fulfils his campaign promise to review the documents for possible declassification and release.
"We cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment," victims' families wrote in a statement on Friday in what was seen as an ultimatum to the US president.
Biden, it seems, has responded to their demand by backing the release of classified documents. News of a fresh review concerning the alleged Saudi role was reported by the US Department of Justice yesterday. There was, however, no clarification over which documents and how many would be released which suggests that some of the most sensitive information may still be kept secret.
"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 welcoming the Justice Department's decision. "In this vein, I welcome the Department of Justice's filing today."
The decision to review the classified documents is the latest development in a nearly two-decade battle by family members of 9/11 victims who have pushed four American presidents, with little success, to release more information about alleged Saudi involvement in financing the attacks.
Fifteen of the 19 attackers were Saudi citizens, and mastermind Osama Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has denied allegations that it was involved.
Thus far the 9/11 Commission which was set up in 2002 to "prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks" found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the group who carried out the attack. However, victims' family groups claim that this still does not discount the possibility that low-ranking officials in Riyadh may be involved and there is no way of knowing without the full release of classified documents. It's not clear that they will get their wish fulfilled completely.