For nearly 15 years, a cloud of suspicion has darkened the perception of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of the American people. That cloud was lifted earlier this month with the release of a previously classified section of the joint congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.
Although President George W. Bush had classified the 28-page section to protect sources and methods of intelligence gathering, making the pages secret also had the effect of fueling public opinion that the American government was hiding evidence. Specifically, it led to rampant speculation that Saudi Arabia or its officials had somehow participated or been complicit in the attacks. My government knew the accusations were false, and in order to clear our name, we have been urging the U.S. government to declassify the pages and make them public since the report was published in 2003.
My government knew the accusations were false, and in order to clear our name, we have been urging the U.S. government to declassify the pages.
Now we know for sure that the conspiracy theorists were wrong: There is no smoking gun in the 28 pages. All they contain is a list of questions and possible leads for exploration in later investigations.
The leads, moreover, were investigated repeatedly. They led nowhere. The 9/11 Commission investigation, and the three different investigations conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, all came to the same conclusion: the government of Saudi Arabia and its officials played no role in the attacks.
It should have been obvious that there was “no there there.”
Responding to sensational media reports, former congressman Lee Hamilton and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission, issued a statement earlier this year warning that “the 28 pages were based almost entirely on raw, unvetted material that came to the FBI. The documents are therefore comparable to preliminary law enforcement notes, which are generally covered by grand jury secrecy rules.”
And as the congressional committee stated in 2003, it was “not the task of this Joint Inquiry to conduct the kind of extensive investigation that would be required to determine the true significance of such alleged support to the hijackers.”
Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, the conspiracy theorists are still not satisfied. They point out that portions of the 28 pages remain classified and insist that the American government must be hiding something nefarious from the people.
As Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr put it, we need to put an end to “idle speculation” that does “nothing to shed light on the 9/11 attacks.”
The U.S.-Saudi relationship is one of the most important in the world. Together we fight terrorism, share intelligence, battle ISIS and work to bring stability to the Gulf region. In this period of historic change and a heightened threat of terrorism, we cannot afford mistrust.
Abdullah Al-Saud is the Saudi ambassador to the United States
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