An investigation into alleged official Saudi Arabian involvement on 9/11 was given the green light over the weekend when US President Joe Biden issued an executive order demanding the wholesale review and declassification of files about the terror attack two decades ago.
Biden has pledged to provide 9/11 survivors and victims’ family members with more transparency about unreleased documents held by the government. Victims’ families have claimed previously that there are up to 25,000 pages of documents related to the attack that has been withheld from them.
“When I ran for president, I made a commitment to ensuring transparency regarding the declassification of documents on September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America,” said Biden, reiterating his pledge in a statement about the executive order. Although they allow presidents to make policy outside of the regular law-making process, such orders have the force of law and must be acted upon. It is often the polarising issues that get pushed through by the president in this manner.
“As we approach the twentieth anniversary of that tragic day, I am honouring that commitment. I signed an executive order directing the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to oversee a declassification review of documents related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s September 11 investigations.”
The order insists that for the sake of “transparency” and “full accountability”, “certain” documents are going to be released “except when the strongest possible reasons counsel otherwise” such as a possible threat to national security.
A timeline has been established for the process. “All interview reports, analytical documents, documents reporting investigative findings, or other substantive records” are to be released in 120 days. All disclosure must be completed within six months.
“Information should not remain classified when the public interest in disclosure outweighs any damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure,” the president’s executive order explains.
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” has found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the group who carried out the attack.
Victims’ family groups, however, 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.