By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Faced with persistent government stonewalling, opposition grounded in American hearts and taking root on Capitol Hill is calling on President Trump and the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence chiefs to declassify all documents related to investigations of the 9/11 attacks.
“After nearly 17 years there is no credible National Security reason to continue to withhold documents,” says a petition that went online last week urging declassification. “When the FBI has released documents, either via FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] or being forced by Court order, the documents are heavily redacted and have contributed to the confusion and ambiguity surrounding the origin of the September 11th attacks.”
The petition’s goal was to obtain 2,977 signatures – one for each person killed in the al Qaeda attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and outside Shanksville, PA. As of Sunday, nearly 2,700 signatures had been collected. Some of those voices are powerful.
“My husband Robert Mayo was murdered on September 11th. My heart is still broken,” wrote Meryl Mayo-Marshall. “Is it asking too much for the truth? Release the documents NOW!”
In Congress, members are also pushing anew in support of 9/11 transparency.
This month, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, called on the U.S. to disclose more about 9/11 and not be “complicit in Saudi Arabia’s resistance to truth-telling.”
“Let’s make no mistake, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia probably sponsored that terrorism. Now the United States government is seeking to shield Saudi Arabia from embarrassment,” Blumenthal said at an April 9 press conference.
Bipartisan push taking shape in Congress
In the House, a bipartisan trio of representatives introduced a resolution calling for the release of tens of thousands of pages of documents “as necessary for a full public understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the United States.”
Those same congressmen – Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-MA, and Rep. Thomas Massie R-KY – spearheaded a similar resolution three years ago that gained widespread support and helped lead to the declassification by President Obama of the “28-pages” from Congress’ Joint Inquiry into 9/11. Those pages revealed the suicide hijackers’ connections to Saudi government officials and members of the Saudi royal family.
“What we want to do is start a national push in early June,” Jones said on Friday. “Once the Senate decides who will be the lead, we will announce that two bills, companion bills, have been introduced in the Senate and the House. That will be our kickoff.”
At the same time, litigation in New York and South Florida seeks to open long-veiled FBI records about its massive 9/11 investigation code-named PENTTBOM.
In New York, lawyers representing thousands of 9/11 families, survivors and other victims who are suing Saudi Arabia this month subpoenaed FBI records about Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi agent in Southern California, and Fahad al-Thumairy, a Saudi diplomat who was also a Los Angeles area religious leader.
The pair has long been tied to two of the five hijackers who commandeered American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon, killing 59 passengers and crew and 125 people in the Pentagon.
Of particular interest in that case is an October 2012 FBI summary report released to Florida Bulldog in late 2016 amid its ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation. The heavily censored report describes how federal prosecutors and FBI agents in New York were targeting an apparent support network for the two Flight 77 hijackers – Saudis Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar – and how they’d zeroed in on one suspect they were looking to charge with providing material support to the hijackers and other crimes.
The report is so sensitive that even the name of the investigation is secret for unexplained reasons of national security. But its unredacted narrative does identify Thumairy and Bayoumi as two of three “main subjects” of the probe who assisted the future hijackers upon their arrival in Los Angeles in January 2000. The name of a third subject was censored, but appears to be highly placed.
“There is evidence that [redacted] and tasked al-Thumairy and al-Bayoumi with assisting the hijackers,” the report says.
The 2012 report was the first confirmation of an active FBI investigation since the 9/11 Commission ended in 2004, and attorneys for the 9/11 victims want to see an unredacted copy.
Their subpoena challenges the FBI to produce it, along with numerous other long-hidden records on May 17 at a plaintiff’s law office in Washington, D.C.
In Florida, Florida Bulldog is pursuing two FOIA cases against the FBI.
The first, pending before Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch since 2012, seeks records of the FBI’s Sarasota investigation that found “many connections” between 9/11 hijackers and a Saudi family living in the Sarasota area yet was never reported to Congress or the 9/11 Commission. The second case, now before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeks records about the FBI’s secretive 9/11 Review Commission.
The Justice Department and the FBI oppose disclosure in both cases.
Meanwhile, the petition continues to enlist supporters.
“The September 11th attacks are the most intensively investigated crime in history. Yet, aside from one minor al Qaeda operative, there have been no indictments, no prosecutions, hence no convictions for the murder of 2,977 people,” the petition says.
“The FBI, CIA and other Departments of the United States Government investigated the attacks. A Congressional Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission based their reports on these investigations. All ten 9/11 Commissioners pledged to release the complete 9/11 Commission Archive by 2009. It did not happen. In addition the FBI, the CIA and others have consistently refused to release thousands of documents, many of which are over a decade old.”
Bizarre reasons to avoid disclosure
The petition also lists several bizarre reasons federal agencies have cited for withholding documents sought under FOIA, like the Justice Department’s insistence that requesters obtain a signed privacy waiver from Osama bin Laden. Also, the FBI’s assertion last year that it would not release a copy of accused 9/11 architect and Guantanamo detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s “non-immigrant visa application” because it “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Here is a sampling of the often-heartbreaking messages that petitioners’ have left:
“I lost both of my parents on the American Airlines flight that went into the trade center.
It is time to release these documents,” wrote Jason Seymour.
“Sister of Robert Chin, 97th Floor, South Tower. My brother went to work and was incinerated. We deserve justice and the truth. Declassify all 9/11 documents,” said Suk-Tan Chin.
“Please bring justice for us. I lost my whole firefighter battalion, 50 firefighters I worked side by side with,” wrote Ronald Barber.
“Father of Nicholas C. Lassman Tower 1 Cantor Fitzgerald,” said Ira Lassman.
Of her only son, Firefighter Sean Patrick Tallon, Eileen Talon said: “My son Sean’s death certificate reads ’homicide’ but the case remains shrouded in secrecy because my government is hiding something. Why not release them? Why redact them… seventeen years later? This is a very long time to wait for answers and to wait for justice.”
“The truth of 9/11 must be known so the thousands of souls lost that day can rest in peace,” wrote Shelley Weinstein.