By Adam Dick
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced a resolution this week in the House of Representatives urging President Barack Obama to declassify 28 pages of a joint House and Senate Intelligence Committee report that includes information concerning foreign governments’ involvement in terrorist attacks in the US. The George W. Bush administration redacted the pages from the December 2002 report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001.
The text of the resolution Jones, an RPI Advisory Board member, introduced along with cosponsor Rep. Stephen Lynch follows:
H. Res. 428
Urging the president to release information regarding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States.
Whereas President George W. Bush classified 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001;
Whereas the contents of the redacted pages are necessary for a full public understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, attacks upon the United States;
Whereas the Executive Branch’s decision to maintain the classified status of these pages prevents the people of the United States from having access to information about the involvement of certain foreign governments in the terrorist attacks of September 2001; and
Whereas the people of the United States and the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks deserve full and public disclosure of the results of the Joint Inquiry: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that–
(1) the President should declassify the 28-page section of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001; and
(2) the families of the victims and the people of the United States deserve answers about the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, attacks upon the United States.
For background information regarding the subject of Jones’s resolution, read below, from the Congressional Record, the October 28, 2003 US Senate debate on an amendment that offered a similar resolution. In the debate, Sens. Byron Dorgan and Bob Graham, who was the chairman of the Senate committee jointly responsible for the report, provide arguments for a “yes” vote. Immediately following their speeches, debate is shut down and a vote prevented based on an objection made by Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, I send an amendment to the desk.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.
The assistant clerk read as follows:
The Senator from North Dakota [Mr. Dorgan], for himself and Mr. Schumer, proposes an amendment numbered 1994.
Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To urge the President to release information regarding sources of foreign support for the 9-11 hijackers)
At the appropriate place, insert the following:
Sec. . Sense of the Senate on declassifying portions of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001.
(a) Findings.–The Senate finds that–
(1) The President has prevented the release to the American public of 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001.
(2) The contents of the redacted pages discuss sources of foreign support for some of the September 11th hijackers while they were in the United States.
(3) The Administration’s decision to classify this information prevents the American people from having access to information about the involvement of certain foreign governments in the terrorist attacks of September 2001.
(4) The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has requested that the President release the 28 pages.
(5) The Senate respects the need to keep information regarding intelligence sources and methods classified, but the Senate also recognizes that such purposes can be accomplished through careful selective redaction of specific words and passages, rather than effacing the section’s contents entirely.
(b) Sense of the Senate.–It is the sense of the Senate that in light of these findings the President should declassify the 28-page section of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001 that deals with foreign sources of support for the 9-11 hijackers, and that only those portions of the report that would directly compromise ongoing investigations or reveal intelligence sources and methods should remain classified.
Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, this amendment is a sense-of-the-Senate amendment. I note there are other sense-of-the-Senate amendments in this legislation. I will at the end of my statement ask consent that we consider waiving points of order.
Let me describe what the amendment is and why I have offered the amendment. I offer this amendment on behalf of myself and Senator Schumer from New York.
The Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee inquiry into the intelligence community activities before and after the terrorist attacks of September 2001 finished its work. This past summer, when the report was finally authorized for release by the administration, we discovered that the report, which took 9 months to write and 7 months to declassify, contained 28 pages that had been redacted by White House lawyers.
I will quote a couple of people, one who is in the Chamber now. I will quote Senator Shelby and Senator Graham, the chair and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee while this inquiry was underway. As I indicated, 28 pages of this report were redacted by White House lawyers. That means the American public cannot see what was in that report. We will have no knowledge and no information about what was contained in that rather exhaustive report.
The Bush administration has refused to declassify these pages, citing concern for intelligence-gathering “sources and methods.” I don’t think that is an insignificant issue, by the way. I think intelligence gathering and the sources and methods for doing so are important. But it is also important, it seems to me, to ask the question, Should these 28 pages have been redacted? Should the 28 pages have been outside the view of the American people, given the fact that this report was done in order to evaluate what happened leading up to 2001, what was happening with respect to our intelligence community, what was happening with respect to other countries?
There has been a great deal of speculation about Saudi Arabia. It is assumed that somehow in these pages there is discussion about the Saudis. The Saudi Government is implicated by some because 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Even the leaders of the Saudi Government, who some have said are the object of the redacted pages, want it declassified. They are angry and embarrassed at being singled out and want to defend themselves, and therefore they want this declassified.
How much of the 28 pages could be declassified? Senators Graham and Shelby, the former chair and cochair of the Intelligence Committee who directed the report are quoted saying the following: “I think they are classified for the wrong reason,” the former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly. My judgment is 95 percent of that information should be declassified and become uncensored so the American people would know.” Asked why the section was blacked out, Shelby said: “I think it might be embarrassing to international relations.”
Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who was the chairman of the committee investigating this, also called for declassification. He said releasing the report would permit “the Saudi Government to deal with any questions which may be raised in the currently censored pages and allow the American people to make their own judgment about who are our true friends and allies in the war on terrorism.” Senator Graham made that request in a letter to President Bush.
This is a very important issue and it has gone on for months and months and months. This report was developed after an extensive amount of study and investigation. The report was then published after being edited by the Bush administration and the White House. And a rather substantial portion of that report–most speculate dealing with the Saudis–was censored, classified, or redacted. That is, the American people are not permitted to see that which is included in the report on those 28 pages.
Again, the chairman and vice chairman of the committee that led or that directed the preparation of this report say most of that information of the 28 pages should be declassified, implying, I believe, since they are not quoted directly, that declassifying that would not compromise sources and methods and not compromise our intelligence community.
My hope is that the Senate, with a sense-of-the-Senate resolution, will weigh in on this in a very significant way and say to the administration these 28 pages should be made available.
Now, in the sense-of-the-Senate resolution, I point out that it is the sense of the Senate that in light of the findings–and I have a series of findings—the President should declassify the 28-page section of the joint inquiry into intelligence community activities before and after the terrorist attacks of 2001 that deal with the foreign sources of support for the 9/11 hijackers and that only those portions of the report that would directly compromise ongoing investigations or reveal intelligence sources or methods should remain classified.
In point of fact, those whose expert opinions I respect have said they have read the redacted or the censored or classified portions very carefully and believe most of it should not have been classified; most of it should have been made available to the American people. If that is the case, and if the Saudi Government itself has said this information ought to be declassified, let us deal with it on the public record. Then I believe the American people ought to expect a right to see this information.
My hope is we will have a vote on this amendment, a sense-of-the-Senate amendment that will allow the Senate in this forum to send a message to the President and to the White House that we believe the bulk of this 28-page redaction should be made available to the American people posthaste.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
Mr. GRAHAM of Florida. Mr. President, I commend my colleague, the Senator from North Dakota, for having offered this sense of the Senate. The sense of the Senate has an additional significance as we face some fundamental issues in the closing days of this session.
First, I will talk about the base concerns. As the Senator from North Dakota said, the principal purpose of the joint inquiry was to determine what had been the role of the intelligence community in the events leading up to September 11. In many instances in the course of that pursuit, the committee staff came to unearth FBI reports, CIA reports, and other intelligence community reports. We were not in a position, either in terms of our staff capabilities or our jurisdiction, to then go behind those reports to attempt to validate them. These were reports written by agents of these appropriate intelligence agencies, but we could not, from primary sources, validate them. The FBI, primarily–and some other intelligence agencies, as well–were tasked to do exactly that, to find out if their own documents in many cases could be substantiated.
Those requests were made approximately a year ago. Still, today, many of those requests have not been answered. The administration has said, either directly or in some cases through intermediaries, that our report is deficient in that there is not second- and third-party confirmation of the statements we include. We included exactly what the FBI or CIA or other agencies had written. We asked the appropriate agencies, primarily FBI, to pursue these to determine if they were substantiated, and in many instances that has not occurred.
There is also an issue not of micro but of macro importance: This report makes a very compelling case, based on the information submitted by the agencies themselves, that there was a foreign government which was complicitous in the actions leading up to September 11, at least as it relates to some of the terrorists who were present in one part of the United States.
There are two big questions yet to be answered. Why would this government have provided the level of assistance—financial, logistical, housing, support service–to some of the terrorists and not to all of the terrorists? We asked that question. There has been no response.
My own hypothesis–and I will describe it as that–is that in fact similar assistance was being provided to all or at least most of the terrorists. The difference is that we happened, because of a set of circumstances which are contained in these 28 censored pages, to have an unusual window on a few of the terrorists. We did not have a similar window on others. Therefore, it will take more effort to determine if they were, in fact, receiving that assistance. That effort has, in my judgment, been grossly insufficiently pursued.
An even more serious question is what would lead us to believe that if there was this infrastructure of a foreign government supporting some of the 19 terrorists, that as soon as September 11 concluded, as soon as the last flames were put out at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and on the field in Pennsylvania, all that infrastructure was immediately taken down? Again, this is my hypothesis: I don’t believe it was taken down. I believe that infrastructure is likely to still be in place assisting the next generation of terrorists who are in the United States.
Those are very fundamental questions, and if the public had access to these 28 pages, they would be demanding answers.
As I mentioned in the beginning of my remarks, there is another issue which is going to emerge in the next few days. We had a long debate in this Chamber on the supplemental appropriations bill, the bill providing $87 billion for the reconstruction and occupation of Iraq. We had a long debate as to whether some of that reconstruction money should be in the form of loans rather than, as the President has insisted, all of it being in grants.
What is one of the practical effects of making all of the U.S. Money which will go into the reconstruction of Iraq a grant? The answer to that question is that one of the consequences, ironically, will be that we will make all of the countries which currently have loans to Iraq that much more solvent because we will have, without any request for repayment, made a significant investment in enhancing the economic viability of Iraq and, therefore, the ability of whatever government is placed in ultimate control of Iraq more capable of repaying those loans.
There is a further irony that some of those countries, which are disclosed in the 28 censored pages as having been complicitous with the terrorists, are among the list of those creditors of Iraq that are going to get this indirect economic benefit. I believe the Members of Congress, who are going to be called upon to vote on whether we should grant this indirect benefit to a country that has been less than supportive of our Nation’s war on terror, ought to know that before we vote and then find out later the full consequences of what we have done.
So there was an issue as to why these 28 pages should have been released when the report was initially completed in December of 2002. Those issues remain today. And there is the additional issue of whether we are going to inadvertently grant a significant financial benefit to a country that has been to say less than our ally in the war on terror would be a gross understatement.
I commend the Senator from North Dakota for having offered this sense of the Senate. It is a very important issue. I hope this Senate will adopt the sense of the Senate. If not, if the President continues to refuse to allow the American people to have access to this information, then I hope the Congress will be willing to use some of the authorities that it has to declassify information. Because the higher interest is not in placating this administration’s unwillingness to be forthcoming on the issue. The higher interest in this democracy is that the people have access to relevant information which is not an issue of national security but which is a significant issue in terms of understanding the consequences of decisions that we have and will soon be making.
I urge adoption of the sense of the Senate and again express my admiration to the Senator from North Dakota for having presented it this afternoon.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota.
Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, let me make a few additional comments. My colleague from Florida is in a very unique position. Having worked with his colleague from Alabama, Senator Graham and Senator Shelby provided a great public service as they initiated this inquiry.
The inquiry, as described by my colleague in part, is an evaluation of whether there were other governments that participated in supporting groups of terrorists who committed acts of terror against this country. The answer to that question is very important. My colleague indicates that if such a program were in place or had been in place by another government to support groups of terrorists, what leads us to believe that parts of that program are not continuing to still operate and, therefore, continue to threaten our country?
The very important question with this sense-of-the-Senate resolution is: Should we not have the ability to know, should full disclosure not be the routine rather than the exception? Should the 28 pages that have been withheld from the American people be made available to them so we all are able to evaluate exactly the same set of information?
My conclusion is, yes, absolutely. It ought to be done sooner rather than later.
I have been intending to offer two amendments to this appropriations bill. One dealt with this sense of the Senate which I have just offered. The second dealt with a sense of the Senate with respect to the cooperation that is now being received or lack of cooperation by the 9/11 Commission, the other commission that is headed by former Governor Kean that is looking into 9/11 and the relationship of a series of issues, both prior to 9/11 and following, by our intelligence community and others.
One of my great concerns is reading in the newspapers just in recent days about the 9/11 Commission. This is a blue-ribbon commission. One of our former colleagues, Senator Cleland, is on the Commission. It is a commission that has to finish its work by May of next year. It has a relatively short timeframe. Now we hear that they have had to issue a subpoena to one of the Federal agencies to get them to cooperate giving information to them. There were other stories yesterday and the day before. They are concerned about not getting information from the White House.
We are not going to be satisfied until we have everything we need to do our job. Governor Kean says–he is a former Republican Governor from New Jersey–this is not about politics. It is about a blue-ribbon commission having access to all of the information so it can do its job.
I find it unbelievable that any agency or crevice or any corner of this Government would not open its records and provide full and immediate cooperation with the 9/11 Commission. That is the least we should expect of every single agency. They have had to subpoena information from the FAA and yet they are not getting information from the White House that they are requesting. Kean said in an interview that he will resume negotiations with the White House this week and hopes to reach a resolution one way or the other on documents the panel is seeking. The Commission has the power to issue subpoenas and Kean says he does not rule out sending one to the White House.
Why should we read this in the papers? I don’t understand it. There ought not be any agency, including the White House, that does not fully cooperate in every respect immediately with the request for information from this 9/11 Commission.
We have had two studies, one initiated by the Senate Intelligence Committee. That is the one that was the focus of my first amendment. The second was to have been the focus of the second amendment. Both were sense of the Senate–first, to declassify the information so that the American people will be able to see what was there. Don’t censor this material; give the American people information. The second is to say to all Federal agencies, cooperate with the 9/11 Commission fully, completely, and immediately.
Now, my understanding is, having consulted with the majority, they will raise a point of order against the amendment I have offered just moments ago because it is “legislating on an appropriations bill.” My second amendment would be the same. They would make a point of order against them, and the point of order would stand, I expect. So when such a point of order is made, I will regret it. I understand those are the rules of the Senate. But on the very next piece of legislation that comes to the floor–and I believe one is coming later this week that is an amendable vehicle and is a nonappropriations bill–we will vote on both of these sense-of-the-Senate amendments.
I might also say that while a point of order will be raised on these, there are sense-of-the-Senate provisions, I believe, in the underlying bill, or sense-of-the-Senate provisions to be added to it. I will not raise similar points of order. My hope is that all Senators will join me in understanding that this is not partisan or political, it is about this country’s interests–our interests in preventing future acts of terrorism, our interests in finding out what happened, what went wrong, and how we can improve the intelligence-gathering system in this country. Who did what? Were foreign governments involved? If so, which ones and to what extent? These questions need to be answered. Both of my resolutions are designed to do one thing–provide more information to the American people, No. 1; No. 2, to ask every corner of our Government in every official working of this Government to decide that they will completely, cooperatively, and immediately work with the 9/11 Commission to provide the requested information.
We ought not to have to come to the Senate floor to ask why the White House, the FAA, or this or that agency has not already fully cooperated with the 9/11 Commission. It is in this country’s interest to see that happen.
Mr. President, I ask for consideration of my amendment.
Mr. McCONNELL. Was consent requested, Mr. President? I am sorry, I didn’t hear.
Mr. DORGAN. I asked for consideration of my amendment. I ask unanimous consent that we waive points of order and have my amendment be considered.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, in accordance with the precedent of May 17, 2000, I raise a point of order that the amendment is not germane.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The point of order is sustained. The amendment falls.
Mr. McCONNELL. Thank you, Mr. President.
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE RON PAUL INSTITUTE FOR PEACE AND PROSPERITY