The events of Sept. 11, 2001, have laid bare the unprecedented consequences to personal safety, national security, foreign policy and government credibility and have exposed the extent to which our own government is willing to protect “ally” Saudi Arabia.
This, notwithstanding our government’s own considerable evidence that is today still classified, of the kingdom’s complicity in the facilitating of at least several of the terrorists, but evidenced in other documents produced over the 19 years of a lawsuit in a New York federal court. The U.S. Justice Department has subordinated the best interests of American terrorism victims and the public at large to the criminal interests of an immensely wealthy and emboldened family in the Middle East with outsized influence in the corridors of power.
For the first time in our history, a gruesome crime involving the murder and maiming on U.S. soil of thousands of Americans, as well as victims from 90 countries, by hired hitmen, has reached a shameful milestone: 20 years of stonewalling justice, thanks to four presidents and their administrations.
Our most recent presidential betrayal experience was in 2019 with then-President Trump. After telling 22 of us during a visit to the White House on Sept. 11 that he, Trump would release certain documents, within 48 hours, then-Attorney General William Barr invoked the “State Secrets privilege” concerning those very documents so that they remained hidden, out of our reach. But the history of executive branch betrayal has been bipartisan. In the past, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the DOJ and Federal Bureau of Investigation have denied possessing any incriminating documents, then admitted in court that it would be too onerous to search for and review documents, but they pivoted from their story again when the FBI and the Justice Department under oath finally admitted in federal court that they are in possession of highly relevant documents on the role Saudi officials played in the attacks.
In 2016, former Sen. Bob Graham, co-chairman of the Joint Inquiry into The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, was interviewed on “60 Minutes” by Steve Kroft regarding the famous “28 pages” removed from the report of the Joint Inquiry, redacted and classified by George W. Bush. When Kroft pointedly asked him “You believe support came from Saudi Arabia?” Graham’s immediate response was “substantially.” When Kroft asked if support came from “rich people in the country, people in the government, or charities?” Graham didn’t miss a beat. “All of the above.” He has publicly stated that “September 11th could not have happened without Saudi Arabia.” And he knows. As head of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the attacks, he had access to important intelligence relevant to 9/11. I had the honor of co-authoring the article, “Re-open the 9/11 Investigation” with him for the Huffington Post in 2012.
The attacks of 9/11 could not have happened without money — enough to provide 19 poor, non-English speaking hitmen with the wherewithal to travel and live in the US, astonishingly, on both the CIA and FBI’s radar screens, so that the hijackers could freely plan and execute their crimes.
For two years in the states, all their needs were met, including months of flying lessons. Lodging, language classes, first-class air travel, identification, living expenses, cars, computers, pets and phones, and even strip clubs — were paid for by our ally Saudi Arabia’s charities, banks — all facilitated by factions of its government.
Buoyed by America’s opacity and enduring collaboration in a systemic 20-year cover-up that began on Sept. 12, 2001, while we were reeling from the unthinkable, the facilitators behind the hitmen who murdered and maimed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil operate unscathed by justice to this day, shielded by protections fostered by three presidents and their Justice Departments. How much skullduggery and crime must Saudi Arabia escape with impunity before the U.S. government acts in the interest of its own citizens and raises its standards vis-a-vis its allies.
Twenty years after the 9/11 Commission, we are still seeking transparency and justice, litigating Saudi Arabia and our own government. President Biden promised “to bring transparency and truth back to government — to share the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.” We are waiting for him to deliver on that promise. This anniversary is heavy with grief and the absence of justice.
Were three thousand deaths not enough?
On Sept. 5, 2021, after 20 years, the inaction and stonewalling of three president and their Departments of Justice, President Biden issued an Executive Order to declassify the documents kept from us all these years. I am hopeful that our lawyers, the families, the survivors and the public will finally be able to read what our government has long hidden about who financed the mass murder of almost 3,000 and the maiming of 6,000. The time has come for truth and justice.
President Biden has opened that door.
Sharon Premoli is a survivor of the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and a resident of Dorset.