President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday issued a statement after the families of Sept. 11 terrorist attack victims said he shouldn’t attend any of their memorials next month unless the White House declassifies documents relating to whether the Saudi government was linked to the attacks.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden said he would try to direct the Department of Justice to disclose some evidence about the terrorist attacks.
“As I promised during my campaign,” Biden said on Monday in a statement, “my Administration is committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law, and to adhering to the rigorous guidance issued during the Obama-Biden Administration on the invocation of the state secrets privilege.”
Biden then announced the Department of Justice made a court filing Monday, “which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible.”
His statement, which was released by the White House, did not say whether any documents or other evidence will be declassified.
“My heart and my prayers continue to be with the 9/11 families who are suffering, and my Administration will continue to engage respectfully with members of this community,” said the president. “I welcome their voices and insight as we chart a way forward.”
Last week, nearly 1,800 victims who survived, first responders, and family members of slain victims said they want the White House to declassify the documents. If Biden fails to do so, they said, he shouldn’t attend any of their events after he made promises to them during his campaign.
“We understand President Biden’s desire to mark the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary at Ground Zero” in New York City, said the letter to Biden, which was obtained by The Epoch Times. “However, we cannot in good faith, and with veneration to those lost, sick, and injured, welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment.”
“If President Biden reneges on his commitment and sides with the Saudi government,” the letter said, “we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11, given its continuation of policies that thwart Americans’ rights to hold accountable those who, known evidence reveals, materially supported the 9/11 hijackers.”
After the conclusion of Congress’s 9/11 Commission nearly two decades ago, there has been investigative work suggesting Saudi involvement in the attacks. But they said that no subsequent administrations, including various federal agencies such as the FBI and Department of Justice, have been willing to release the evidence.
Former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump declined to declassify the supporting documents in the 9/11 investigation. Most recently, in 2019, the Trump administration invoked its state secrets privilege to keep the information classified.
Several senators, meanwhile, recently called on the government to declassify and make available documents about whether the Saudi government had any involvement.
“If the United States government is sitting on any documents that may implicate Saudi Arabia or any individual or any country in the events of 11 September, these families, and the American people, have a right to know,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement last week.
The 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist incident will take place next month. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, which also set the stage for the United States to launch an invasion in Afghanistan and later, Iraq.