Biden welcomes fresh review of Sept. 11 attack documents

Politics

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 05: Family members of 9/11 victims hold photos of their loved ones during a press conference on the introduction of the “September 11th Transparency Act of 2021” at the Capitol Building on August 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. Sponsors of the legislation, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are calling on increased transparency of the federal September 11th investigation. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden said he welcomed a Justice Department filing on Monday committing to a fresh review of documents related to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks for which the government has previously asserted privileges.

“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 in a statement.

The disclosure in a two-page letter filed in federal court in Manhattan follows longstanding criticism from relatives of those killed that the U.S. government was withholding crucial details from them in the name of national security.

“In this vein, I welcome the Department of Justice’s filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible,” he said.

Hundreds of family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on Friday said in a letter that they would oppose Biden’s participation in this year’s memorial events unless he declassifies government documents that they contend will show Saudi leaders supported the attacks.

In total, about 1,700 people directly affected by the 9/11 attacks signed the letter.

Monday’s move failed to placate at least some victims’ survivors, who said the FBI and Justice Department have already had years to review the documents.

In its letter Monday, the department said that the FBI had recently concluded an investigation that examined certain 9/11 hackers and potential conspirators. It would now work to see if the information previously determined could not be disclosed might instead be shared.

“The FBI will disclose such information on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible,” the Justice Department said.

Family members of 9/11 victims have long sought U.S. government documents related to whether Saudi Arabia aided or financed any of the 19 people associated with al Qaeda who carried out the devastating attack, crashing airplanes into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people died.

In a statement, Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce, was killed inside the World Trade Center, said that while he appreciated Biden’s acknowledgment of the families, “we have heard many empty promises before.”

He added: “We hope the Biden administration comes forward now to provide the information the 9/11 community has waited to receive for 20 years so we can stand together with the president at Ground Zero on 9/11.”

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. A U.S. government commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded al Qaeda. However, it left open whether individual officials might have.

Saudi Arabia is being sued for billions of dollars by the families of roughly 2,500 of those killed and by more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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