(CNSNews.com) – Amid stepped-up efforts to get the administration to declassify documents that could highlight links between prominent Saudis and 9/11, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday debating the question of who was responsible for the 2001 terror attacks was “a fool’s errand.”
On the eve of a visit to Saudi Arabia by President Obama, Kirby was asked whether the administration believes current or former Saudi officials or royal family members were in any way involved with the attack.
“Look, I’m not going to re-litigate history here,” he said. “You can go online and see the story of the attacks and how it happened and who was responsible, and I’m not going to re-litigate it here.”
“As it says in the [9/11 Commission ] report, there’s no indication that Saudi officials or the Saudi government was behind or supporting in any way those attacks,” Kirby continued. “It’s all there, the public record is all there for you to see, and I’m certainly not going to re-litigate that history here today.”
A reporter pointed out that the public record does not include 28 pages redacted from a report issued two years before the 9/11 Commission’s – a 2002 joint House and Senate report entitled “Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the [9/11] Terror Attacks.”
“Well, look, again, the 9/11 Commission Report is pretty exhaustive,” Kirby responded. “It states clearly who was responsible for the attacks on 9/11. And for us to sit here, this many years later, and try to debate it I think is just a fool’s errand.”
Suspicions of high-level Saudi support for the al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks have prompted bipartisan legislation in the Senate requiring the president to declassify the 28 pages redacted from the 2002 joint House and Senate report, while a House bill also enjoying bipartisan support urges the president to do so.
Lawmakers who have been allowed to read the 28 pages in a restricted setting may not speak about the contents, but some have indicated that their release would have an impact on U.S.-Saudi relations.
The administration is reviewing the question of declassifying the 28 pages, and there are indications that a decision may be forthcoming soon.
As Kirby noted Tuesday, the 9/11 Commission in its 2004 report said it found no evidence of official Saudi backing for al-Qaeda.
“It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban [in Afghanistan] 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,” the report 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),” the 9/11 Commission report added.
In yet another report arising out of the attacks, completed in 2005 but released in heavily-redacted form last year, the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General scrutinized the intelligence community’s activities in the run-up to and after 9/11.
A section entitled “Issues relating to Saudi Arabia” is mostly blacked out, although visible excerpts include the line, “the Team encountered no evidence that the Saudi Government knowingly and willingly supported al-Qaeda terrorists.”
The excerpts also 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.”