(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says 28 redacted pages of a congressional inquiry into the 9/11 terror attacks should be released to the public because the speculation about what those pages contain is more damaging than the actual content.
The 28 pages -- kept secret since the joint House-Senate report came out in 2002 -- focus on Saudi Arabia's ties to al Qaeda. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who hijacked American planes on Sept. 11, 2001 were Saudi citizens.
"The 28 pages were produced by this joint inquiry by the Congress after 9/11, looking at what role the Saudis or Saudi government may have played in 9/11. It's really a set of allegations more than it is a set of proof, and the 9/11 Commission thereafter looked into those allegations. They weren't able to substantiate them," Schiff told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday.
"But I think this mystery about what's contained in the 28 pages is really the most damaging, and I don't see any reason why they can't be redacted to preserve sources and methods but released, by and large, to the public."
Schiff said the 28 pages contain "allegations...not proofs," and no one has been able to corroborate the allegations.
The 9/11 Commission, on page 171 of its report, said: “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.
“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.)”
Mitchell asked Schiff about the possibility that Saudi officials or members of the royal family were secretly financing the hijackers while they plotted in the United States.
"You certainly had Saudi money going to al Qaeda, Saudi money going to fuel a lot of terrorism," Schiff said. "You have Saudi support for these Wahhabi schools that are part of the ideological indoctrination for a lot of the violent jihad that goes on around the world. And it's not hard, even with that being the basis of a case, to say that Saudi Arabia bears a responsibility for terrorism.
"So you can make, I think, a legal case, even if you can't prove that this particular Saudi minister or this Saudi royal family member was directly implicated in the plot. And therein is, I think, lies the challenge. There are certainly indications of Saudi money going. The question is, was this known to high-ranking people within the royal family or the government?
"Those allegations have never been able to be corroborated or confirmed. And I think that's where the debate really is, between a knowing level of support and the fact that, through a lot of Saudi charities, money made its way from Saudi Arabia into the coffers of al Qaeda and other extremist and terrorist organizations."
Saudi leaders, now meeting with President Obama in Riyadh, strenuously oppose the release of the 28 pages. They also oppose a bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would allow American victims of domestic terrorism to sue foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, for damages. The Saudis have threatened to retaliate in ways that would hurt the U.S. economy, but Schiff said he thinks it's "unlikely" that they would follow through on the threat.
But he admitted that the release of the pages and passage of the Schumer bill would "undoubtedly...affect the U.S.-Saudi relationship."
"But the bigger issue -- and I can well understand the value of allowing the 9/11 families to seek compensation -- but the bigger issue I think may be whether this would open us up to other countries seeking compensation from the United States. Would this, for example, open up claims by Iraq, by Afghanistan, against the United States? People who lost family members in those wars to seek compensation from this United States?
"So we really need to think through the consequences, the downstream consequences, of this. Because I think we all favor allowing those 9/11 victims to, you know, follow the responsibility trail wherever it leads and seek compensation, but we also have to be concerned about when we remove the immunity shield that foreign governments enjoy; it also means they may remove the immunity shield that protects the U.S. from liability that their citizens could bring against us."
That is the same argument that the Obama White House and some Republican leaders have made.