With the 20-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaching, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that directed the release of some documents related to the incident.
The executive order directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other agencies to start a review of documents and requires Attorney General Merrick Garland to release declassified information in the coming months.
“We must never forget the enduring pain of the families and loved ones of the 2,977 innocent people who were killed during the worst terrorist attack on America in our history. For them, it was not only a national and international tragedy,” said Biden in a statement.
He added: “For 20 years, children have grown up without parents and parents have suffered without children. Husbands and wives have had to find a way forward without their partners in life. Brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, loved ones and friends have celebrated 20 years of birthdays, family gatherings, and milestones looking at an empty chair at homes and with a hole in their hearts.”
Weeks ago, numerous families and survivors of the 9/11 attacks issued a statement urging Biden not to attend any of their memorials unless the White House releases documents surrounding Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement in the attacks.
The group in question, 9/11 Families, issued a statement praising Biden’s move on Friday.
“We are thrilled to see the president forcing the release of more evidence about Saudi connections to the 9/11 attacks,” Terry Strada, whose husband died in the attacks, said on Friday.
Strada added that, however, “there is much more work” that needs to be done “to rectify the immense damage the 20-year shroud of secrecy has caused.”
It’s not clear where Biden will mark the Sept. 11 attacks anniversary.
Biden is facing unprecedented criticism by members of both political parties, family members of fallen soldiers, and former U.S. service members for how his administration handled the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which triggered a chaotic and hasty evacuation of tens of thousands of people. Hundreds of Americans are believed to still remain in the country behind Taliban lines.
Earlier this week, Biden took a defensive tone during a speech announcing the official end to the U.S.-led conflict in Afghanistan and again blamed the Afghan government for collapsing. He also targeted the previous administration for striking a deal with the Taliban, although former Trump administration officials have said their deal didn’t allow the unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan, would allow some U.S. troops to remain, and set a different timetable.
After former President Donald Trump’s administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban over the military pullout that included a May 1 deadline, Biden pushed that date back to Aug. 31 to ostensibly coincide with the Sept. 11 attacks anniversary.