Relatives of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have disinvited President Joe Biden from their memorial services, saying he must first keep his promise to declassify evidence they think may implicate Saudi officials.
“We understand President Biden’s desire to mark the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary at Ground Zero; however, we cannot in good faith – and with veneration to those lost, sick and injured – welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,” family members and survivors of the attack said on Friday, in a statement signed by nearly 1,800 people.
At issue are documents related to the alleged role of Saudi Arabian officials in aiding the September 11 attackers. Democrat and Republican administrations alike have kept the evidence secret, citing national security. While running for president last October, Biden pledged to direct his attorney general to examine the merits of cases in which 9/11 documents have been kept classified based on the so-called “state-secrets privilege.”
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Questioned about the issue at a press briefing on Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to his promise to ensure that the state-secrets privilege isn’t being invoked improperly, but she added that “of course, any steps would be taken by the Department of Justice.”
Psaki didn’t address whether Biden will go through with plans to attend the 20th anniversary commemorations at the 9/11 memorial in New York City next month. He reportedly may make stops at the Pentagon and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania as well.
Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the 2001 attacks, and the families and survivors said that after “having been used as a political bargaining chip for two decades, our patience has expired.”
We had great hope that President Biden, who campaigned on bringing truth and trust back to the Oval Office, would value the lives and sacrifices of American citizens over diplomatic relations with a country accused of mass murder.
Some relatives of the victims were also angered by Biden’s rhetoric about the January 6 Capitol riot, calling it the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.”
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US Senators Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) demanded on Thursday that the Biden administration declassify 9/11 documents.
“If the US government is sitting on any documents that may implicate Saudi Arabia or any individual or any country in the events of [September 11], these families and the American people have a right to know,” said Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The two senators and two Republican colleagues are co-sponsors of a new bill that would require US intelligence officials to do a full declassification review of documents related to the terrorist attacks.
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Family members and survivors said in their statement that they remain hopeful Biden will follow through on his pledge.
“The Biden administration still has a historic opportunity to fulfill his campaign promise and, more important, finally give our families and the American people the truth they deserve about [September 11],” the statement said. “Twenty years later, there is simply no reason – unmerited claims of ‘national security’ or otherwise – to keep this information secret.”
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