Politics

9/11 families ask Biden not to attend memorial events unless he declassifies documents on Saudis

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Key Points
  • Nearly 1,800 9/11 survivors, victims' family members and first responders are telling President Joe Biden that he should skip memorial events this year.
  • They want him to declassify U.S. documents detailing Saudi Arabia's role in the deadly attacks, citing his campaign promises. 
  • Next month will mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 Americans at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
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9/11 families want Biden to declassify documents or stay away from 20-year memorials

Nearly 1,800 9/11 survivors, victims' family members and first responders are telling President Joe Biden that he should skip memorial events this year unless he declassifies U.S. documents detailing Saudi Arabia's role in the deadly attacks. 

Next month will mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

The group argued that Biden has failed to fulfill his campaign promise to release as much information as possible on the attacks and has ignored their numerous letters and requests that called on him to do so. 

"Twenty years later, there is simply no reason — unmerited claims of 'national security' or otherwise — to keep this information secret," the group said in their statement. 

"But if President Biden reneges on his commitment and sides with the Saudi government, we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11," the group said.

A White House spokesperson said in a statement that its Office of Public Engagement and National Security Council staff have met with 9/11 victims' family members to discuss their requests for documents and "hear their thoughts on policy priorities," NBC News reported Friday.

In his campaign promise, Biden pledged to direct his Department of Justice to examine cases where the disclosure of FBI information related to the 9/11 attacks is recommended. He said that releasing such information would be "narrowly tailored" to protect against the risk of harm to national security. 

"I intend to be a President for all Americans, and will hear all of their voices," Biden said. "The 9/11 Families are right to seek full truth and accountability."

The group said they had "great hopes" that Biden would diverge from previous administrations and said they were disappointed that he did not live up to his words after his inauguration.

They said that since the 9/11 Commission investigation concluded, in 2004, there has been investigative evidence found "implicating Saudi government officials" in supporting the attacks. 

The 9/11 Commission found it likely that Saudi government-funded charities supported the attacks but did not find any evidence of direct funding from the government, according to NBC News. 

The group particularly called for the release of FBI documents from a 2016 investigation of Saudi Arabia. They said they believe the documents would reveal whether any individuals associated with al Qaeda, the group that carried out the terrorist attacks, received assistance or financing from the Saudi Arabian government. 

Fifteen of the 19 attackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens, and mastermind Osama Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia, but the country's government has denied allegations that it was involved.

Multiple presidential administrations have cited "security concerns" in their reasoning for withholding documents related to the terrorist attacks, the group's statement said. 

Most recently, the Trump administration invoked the state secrets privilege in 2019 to justify keeping documents classified, according to NBC News.