Lawmakers on Wednesday ramped up pressure on the House Intelligence Committee to declassify 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by publishing them in the Congressional Record.
President Barack Obama had previously promised to release part of the documents, which are believed to address possible Saudi government connections to the hijackers. National Director of Intelligence James Clapper was to review the classified pages in 2014, but their contents have remained a secret.
"I have read these pages and can say that while their release will not harm national security, the contents are critical to our foreign policy moving forward," Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said in a statement. "That is why I have introduced a resolution that would enable the House Committee on Intelligence to declassify the 28 pages ... It is more critical than ever for the American people to know what led to the tragic attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and I urge my colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee to release the pages."
Reps. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., co-sponsored the resolution, which calls for publishing them in the Congressional Record under the protection of the Constitution's speech or debate clause. The purpose of the clause is to protect lawmakers from intimidation by the executive or judiciary branches and reinforce the separation of powers among the three branches of government.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, said that while the Constitution's speech or debate clause protects members of Congress, it does not protect sources and methods that may be compromised by inappropriately revealing classified information.
"I support release of the 28 pages, but only after appropriate redactions are made to safeguard intelligence sources and methods," Schiff said. "It is also important to note that the 28 pages are also a Senate document, so it would be inappropriate for us to act unilaterally and without their concurrence."
Neither the bipartisan congressional inquiry nor the subsequent 9/11 Commission found any evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials knowingly supported the terrorists who orchestrated the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. However, lawmakers and relatives of victims insist there’s reason to further probe the possible Saudi links.
CIA Director John Brennan told a Saudi TV station over the weekend that he thinks the documents will clear the Saudi government of any possible wrongdoing.
"I think the 28 pages will be published and I support their publication and everyone will see the evidence that the Saudi government had nothing to do with it," Brennan said in an interview with Arabiya TV, according to Reuters.
Brennan insists the 28-page section is just a “preliminary review.”
"It was found later, according to the results of the report, that there was no link between the Saudi government as a state or as an institution or even senior Saudi officials to the Sept. 11 attacks," he explained.
Saudi Arabia’s government has threatened to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if the plan is enacted.
Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government says it has been "wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity" in the attacks, is fighting extremists and working to clamp down on their funding channels. Still, the Saudis have long said that they would welcome declassification of the 28 pages because it would "allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.