Four months ago, Saudi Arabia went "nuclear" when it emerged that Congress was preparing legislation which would allow plaintiffs to sue the Kingdom for its involvement in the September 11, with Saudi officials going so far as threatening to liquidate their holdings of US reserves. In the subsequent weeks, the legislation was quietly killed, however an open topic remained: the classified "28 pages" that were part of the 2002 Congressional report which allegedly disclose Saudi involvement in the worst terrorist attack on US soil ever.
To be sure, this wouldn't be the only smoking gun: as we posted in April, another report, also known as "Document 17" linked the Saudi Embassy In Washington To Sept 11. As such, Saudi involvement is largely taken for granted. The only thing that has been missing is an official policy stance.
That may changed tomorrow because as CNN reports, citing sources, the classified pages detailing alleged Saudi Arabia government ties to the 9/11 hijackers will be released as early as Friday by Congress.
Known as the "28 pages," the document was part of a 2002 Congressional investigation of the 9/11 attacks and has been classified since the report's completion.
Sources said there are still some procedural steps that need to be taken before the release.
Under pressure from the victims' families and lawmakers, President Barack Obama said in April his administration would declassify the pages. That same month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said mid-June was a realistic target date for their release.
Former Senator Bob Graham, who chaired the committee that carried out the investigation, recently told CNN that when he personally went to the President in April to advocate for the release, he was told a similar timeframe was possible. "I was told on April 12th that the decision as to whether to release the pages would be made before June 12th," Graham told CNN. "Well, we're now well beyond that date and no decision as to whether a decision is going to made has been released."
Graham said the White House was no longer returning his calls. "Immediately after June 12th, I began calling the White House to ask what is the new date for the decision to be made and a half dozen telephone calls have not been returned," he said.
So will the pages be just the usual mish mash of ineligible, redacted text? "Sources told CNN that intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the State Department have all reviewed and approved the release of the 28 pages with "minimal redactions.""
However, a White House official told CNN, "This is a Congressional document, which we expect ultimately would be released by the Hill once the (Director of National Intelligence) has reviewed it."
Last week, Democratic and Republican House members called on the White House to fulfill its promise to declassify and make the pages public, introducing a new bill to do so if the president doesn't act.
"If the Obama administration does not move forward then we need to pass (the legislation) to have the House Intelligence Committee publish the pages," Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said at the time.
Terry Strada has been pushing for the right to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged involvement in the attack. Her husband was working on the 104th floor of the North Tower when the planes struck. The couple had had their third child just four days earlier.
"All of this could be settled, if we would just release the 28 pages and let everyone see what's in there," Strada said. "If it was just this low-level ... government officials in the Saudi Arabian government, then they have nothing to worry about. The American people deserve this just as much as the 9/11 families deserve it, but we're the ones that are suffering by not having them released."
For its part, the Saudi government is also calling for the pages to be released so that it can respond to any allegations, which it has long called unfounded. A senior Saudi official told CNN that Riyadh will make any potential suspects available for interview by US authorities. So far, this official said, the Saudi government has received no such requests.
If this is accurate, the timing, coming just before the Republican convention, is perhaps surprising. Alternatively, one wonders if Saudi Arabia was so vocal previously, why it is willing to go along with this release which - unless it is utterly fabricated - will reveal the Saudi "allies" in a very unpleasant light. We look forward to reading the "pages" if and when they are released.