(CNSNews.com) – Republican Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that Saudi Arabia may have been involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack, touching on long-simmering suspicions that lie behind two legislative measures currently before Congress.
On the campaign trail Trump – in attacking rival Jeb Bush – has implied that President George W. Bush should be blamed for al-Qaeda’s Sept. 2001 attack on America, and accused his administration of lying about the reasons for the war in Iraq.
During a campaign event in South Carolina on Wednesday, those subjects came up again.
“In all fairness, we went after Iraq – they did not knock down the World Trade Center, okay? It wasn’t the Iraqis that knocked down the World Trade Center,” he said.
“We went after Iraq, we decimated the country. Iran’s taking over, okay.”
“But it wasn’t the Iraqis,” Trump continued. “You will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center, because they have papers there that are very secret. You may find it’s the Saudis, okay?
“But you will find out,” he said.
Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda terrorist chief who deployed them.
Longstanding questions about possible links between al-Qaeda and prominent Saudis in the run-up to the terrorist attack remain unanswered.
On Capitol Hill, a small but growing group of lawmakers from both parties is backing measures to have the administration declassify 28 blacked-out pages from a 2002 joint House and Senate report entitled “Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the [9/11] Terror Attacks.”
A House resolution, introduced in January last year by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), now has 41 co-sponsors – 15 Republicans and 26 Democrats.
A bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) last June, is co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
The measures were referred to the House and Senate Intelligence committees respectively.
When he announced his bill last June, Paul said he believed the families of 9/11 victims “have the right to know the details surrounding the tragedies that occurred on that sad day.”
Although the Saudi nationality of most of the 9/11 hijackers did not in itself constitute wrongdoing by the kingdom’s government, he said, “information that has been revealed over the years does raise questions about their support and whether this support might have been provided to these al-Qaeda terrorists.”
“We cannot let page after page of blanked-out documents be obscured behind a veil, leaving these families to wonder if there is additional information surrounding these horrible acts,” Paul said.
The full 2002 report runs more than 800 pages, while the 28 redacted pages fall within a section entitled, “Finding, discussion and narrative regarding certain sensitive national security matters.”
The lead-up to the blacked-out section reads: “It was not the task of this Joint Inquiry to conduct the kind of extensive investigation that would be required to determine the true significance of such alleged support to the hijackers.”
It continues, “On the one hand, it is possible that these kinds of connections could suggest, as indicated in a CIA memorandum, ‘incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists [redacted].’ On the other hand, it is also possible that further investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations.”
The 28 redacted pages follow.
The separate 9/11 Commission report, released two years later, said it found no evidence of official Saudi backing for al-Qaeda.
“It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al-Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al-Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al-Qaeda’s fundraising activities,” it said.
“Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al-Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al-Qaeda.)”
In yet another report, completed in 2005 but released in heavily-redacted form last year, the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General examined intelligence community activities in the run-up to and after 9/11.
The vast majority of a section entitled “Issues relating to Saudi Arabia” is blacked out, although excerpts that are readable include the line, “the Team encountered no evidence that the Saudi Government knowingly and willingly supported al-Qaeda terrorists.”
It goes on to say that individuals in the CIA’s Near East division and Counterterrorism Center “told the Team they had not seen any reliable reporting confirming Saudi Government involvement with and financial support for terrorism prior to 9/11, although a few also speculated that dissident sympathizers within the government may have aided al-Qaeda.”