WASHINGTON — President Biden delivered on a campaign promise and Friday ordered the Justice Department and other federal agencies to oversee the review and release of documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In an executive order, Mr. Biden ordered Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to publicly release the declassified documents over the next six months.
“When I ran for president, I promised transparency regarding the declassification of documents on September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America,” Biden said in a statement released next week ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks. . “We must never forget the enduring pain of the families and loved ones of the 2,977 innocent people who died in the worst terrorist attack on America in our history.”
For years, families of the victims of the September 11 attacks have urged the federal government to release more information about any Saudi involvement in financing the attacks.
In 2019, William P. Barr, then Attorney General under President Donald J. Trump, stated in a statement to a federal court that documents related to the attacks must remain classified to protect national security. The move stunned the families.
As a candidate, Mr. Biden last year to “make the disclosure error in cases where, like here, the events in question happened two decades or more ago.”
It is not clear what documents the Justice Department will release when the investigation is complete. But the announcement was immediately praised by some family members who have increased pressure on Mr Biden to act.
Last month, a group of nearly 1,800 people affected by the attack, including survivors, medical workers and relatives of victims, told the president to skip this year’s memorial at Ground Zero if he didn’t begin the process of reviewing it. the documents for possible declassification and release.
“We’re excited to see the president push for the release of more evidence about Saudi connections to the 9/11 attacks,” Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom Strada, was killed at the World Trade Center, said in a statement. Friday. “We’ve been fighting the FBI and the intelligence community for too long, but this seems like a real turning point.”
Some family members believe the documents may establish links between the Saudi government and the hijackers who carried out the attacks.
The 9/11 Commission, which released its final report in 2004, found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” funded Al Qaeda, which carried out the attacks. But that wording has left some speculating that there may be evidence of involvement from other lower-level officials.