Almost 2000, 9-11 survivors and families of victims have said to President Joe Biden, “Thanks, but no thanks,” when it comes to him attending upcoming memorial services.
The group of hundreds of Americans who were directly affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are opposing President Joe Biden’s participation in any memorial events this year unless he upholds his pledge to declassify U.S. government evidence that they believe may show a link between Saudi Arabian leaders and the attacks.
The victims’ family members, first responders, and survivors will soon release a statement calling on Biden to skip 20th-anniversary events in New York and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, unless he releases the documents which they believe implicate Saudi officials in supporting the acts of terrorism. The group says that as a candidate, Biden pledged to be more transparent and release as much information as possible but that his administration has since then ignored their letters and requests.
“We cannot believe in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,” they wrote in a statement, an advanced copy of which was obtained by NBC News.
“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 statement says. “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.”
Among the documents, the group seeks are supporting evidence found during a widespread FBI investigation into the attacks that examined alleged Saudi links and was completed in 2016.
Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce, died at the World Trade Center, said he and his co-signers “collectively are at our wits’ end with our own government.”
“We are frustrated, tired and saddened with the fact that the U.S. government for 20 years has chosen to keep information about the death of our loved ones behind lock and key,” said Eagleson, who is among a group of victims’ relatives who filed a federal lawsuit accusing Saudi Arabia of being complicit in the attacks.
While the 9/11 Commission report found that Saudi Arabia had been “problematically,” particularly when it came to sharing intelligence, the investigation found “no evidence” implicating Saudi leaders in the attack. The Report did say, however, “a lack of awareness [on the part of Saudi leaders] of the problem and a failure to conduct oversight over institutions created an environment in which such activity has flourished,” the Report said.
In addition to fixing some blame on Saudi officials, the Report also identified Saudi nationals as a major source of funding for Al Qaeda. The Saudi government has denied any connection to the attacks.
Eagleson said he is convinced that senior leaders in the Saudi government knew about the planned attack and did nothing to stop it.
Among the evidence he cites is the 2017 sworn testimony of former FBI Special Agent Stephen Moore, who was in charge of the Los Angeles Task Force Team for PENTTBOM, the FBI’s investigation of the 9/11 attacks.
“Based on the evidence we gathered during the course of our investigation, I concluded that diplomatic and intelligence personnel of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia knowingly provided material support to the two 9/11 hijackers and facilitated the 9/11 plot. My colleagues in our investigation shared that conclusion,” Moore said in his affidavit.
“Twenty years later, there is simply no reason — unmerited claims of ‘national security or otherwise — to keep this information secret,” the group wrote. “But if President Biden reneges on his commitment and sides with the Saudi government, we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11.”
Eagleson said in an interview, “The buck stops at the president.”
After NBC broke this story, a Biden administration source familiar with the matter said the Justice Department is expected to begin a review of the documents to determine whether any can be released. The review will include documents in which states secrets or law enforcement privilege have been cited as grounds for keeping the information classified.
While the goal is a quick review, it is not likely to be completed before the 20th anniversary of the attacks this year, the source said.