Lawmakers: Bush Administration Protecting Saudi Sentiment With Secrecy

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The Bush administration should make public the facts about Saudi Arabia's complicity with terrorists rather than worry about offending the kingdom, lawmakers said Sunday.

One senator said 95 percent of the classified pages of a congressional report released last week into the work of intelligence agencies before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was kept secret only to keep from embarrassing a foreign government.

"I think they're classified for the wrong reason," Sen. Richard Shelby, former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC's Meet the Press.

"I went back and read every one of those pages, thoroughly. ... My judgment is 95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know," said Shelby, R-Ala.

Asked why the section was blacked out, Shelby said: "I think it might be embarrassing to international relations."

In unclassified pages of the report, released Thursday, several unidentified government officials complained of a lack of Saudi cooperation. "According to a U.S. government official, it was clear from about 1996 that the Saudi government would not cooperate with the United States on matters related to Usama bin Laden," the report says.

Bin Laden, head of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, was born in Saudi Arabia to a prominent and rich family. He turned against the Saudi government after it allowed the United States to station troops and equipment in their country. The Saudi government revoked his citizenship.

Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the administration of using classification to "disguise and keep from the American people ineptitude and incompetence, which was a contributing factor toward Sept. 11."

He said there might be parts of blanked section that would compromise sources or methods of intelligence-gathering, "but it would be a sentence or a paragraph, not 28 pages."

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Graham, a Democratic presidential candidate, would not confirm that Saudi Arabia is the country discussed in the pages; discussing classified information is a crime.

But he said, "High officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of Sept. 11."

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers, who killed close to 3,000 people in New York, suburban Washington and Pennsylvania, were Saudis.

The current committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., agreed on CBS' Face the Nation that too much was removed but said he expects more to be revealed.

"I think at some future date it will be made public," Roberts said. "I was upset with the process, and I was upset with the amount of material that was redacted."

Only Roberts' counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., who formerly worked for the CIA, said the administration was justified in its deletions. He said on NBC the joint committee recommended a full investigation of foreign involvement, and "we do not want to contaminate that investigation."

He said he expects to pages to be revealed after the investigation is ended.