Representatives Walter Jones (R–NC), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) along with survivors and members of 9/11 victims families held a press conference March 11, 2014 on Capitol Hill regarding HRes 428 which calls on the President to declassify the redacted 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry report that details the foreign sponsorship of the 9/11 attacks.
This is the Transcript of the Press Conference held on March 12th, 2014, on the Declassification of the excised 28 pages of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the 9/11 attacks. The Press conference was held by Rep. Walter B. Jones, (R-NC), Stephen F. Lynch, (D-MA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and several members of the group “9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism.” The meeting was scheduled to contain a video message from former Senator Bob Graham, but due to technical difficulties it was only displayed later.
ON THE DECLASSIFICATION OF 9/11 DOCUMENTS
REP. WALTER B. JONES: We’re going to officially start the press conference. I’m going to speak very briefly. Then I’m going to call on Congressman Stephen Lynch, and he will reintroduce himself for the press, and then Congressman Thomas Massie and then the families; but I’m going to read the order of the speakers and then make my brief comments and then turn it over to Stephen Lynch. The families that are here today, and they again will reintroduce themselves, Terry Strada, Alice Hoagland, and Sylvia Carver, these are family members who lost loved ones during 9/11 so therefore, I will let them explain why they are here today, and why they support H. Res. 428.
Several years ago, I read this book written by Bob Graham, it’s called Intelligence Matters. The subtitle tells you more than the title of the book and it’s The CIA, The FBI, Saudi Arabia, and the Failure of America’s War on Terror. If you remember, Bob Graham was one of the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission and he, for a number of years, has been outspoken on this issue of the 28 pages, of why the 28 pages in the report were classified. And he has been calling for a declassification of the 28 pages. I want to give him the credit today, because he is the one that got me interested in this issue. I’m from North Carolina, I have never met with so many families that have lost loved ones in the three tragedies that happened on 9/11.
After reading the information, the way the process works, very quickly, a member of the House has to write a letter to the Chairman, Mike Rogers (Ala.) and the Ranking Member, Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.) and ask permission to go down in a classified setting to read the information. So we write the letter, and mine took about three or four weeks before they responded back to say that we give you the authorization. The room is guarded, which we can understand, and it’s very much needed, probably. And then, when you go in to read the 28 pages, you have someone sitting with you, so you cannot take any notes; it’s whatever you might remember. And we cannot divulge, or we would be in serious trouble here as a member of Congress if we divulged any of the information that we read.
A couple of other points, very quickly: I do not think that a nation like America will remain strong if the nation does not demand the truth. And after reading the 28 pages, I can honestly say my opinion — I can’t speak for these two men — there’s nothing that deals with national security. There are other issues, but not national security issues. That’s why the call by the families across this nation, with three families being here today, the families have called on Congress for a number of years, along with Senator Bob Graham, to declassify the 28 pages.
And I want to thank the families for being here today; I will close this press conference and we will allow you to ask questions. But with that, I’m going to ask Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts if he will speak; and then Thomas Massie from Kentucky will follow him, and then the families will come up. So, thank you for being here today. And Stephen Lynch is a co-sponsor of this legislation; Thomas Massie has joined Stephen and myself, and four other members of the House in this legislation calling for the President to release this information. And so therefore, we need for you to put pressure on your Representative back home to join in this effort for the truth — Stephen Lynch.
REP. STEPHEN F. LYNCH: Okay, thank you Walter. Thank you, my friend. I want, first of all, to thank the families for being here. As much as we might encourage members to go and read the classified information and to join us, really the power of the families, and I have a lot of families in my district, and from Massachusetts that lost loved ones on those flights coming out of Boston, so I just want to thank you for turning your loss and your grief into a positive step, for all of our country. And I think it’s very important to have your support, we appreciate it.
I want to thank you all for being here. Today, we’re here to bring attention to House Res. 428, which Congressman Jones and I have jointly introduced, and which Congressman Massie has co-sponsored.
In December, we initially introduced this bill, and this important resolution calls for the declassification of the 28-page section of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into intelligence activities before and after the terrorist attacks of September of 2001. It is important to remember that these were not simply sections that were redacted, which is quite common in these type intelligence reports. This 28 pages was excised. So the entire section, 28 pages, was removed from the body of work that was actually presented to the public.
I’d like to begin by thanking my dear friend and colleague Congressman Jones for all of his efforts on behalf of this issue, and for our families and for our country, and for working with me to craft this resolution; I’d also like to acknowledge former Senator and former Chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, for his work. He was unable to be here with us today, but he did send a message of support. And Senator Graham has worked tirelessly to see that these pages are made public. I’ve had the opportunity to maintain contact with him by phone. And also, here again today, are families of the victims of the tragic attacks on September 11th, 2001. Our nation suffered a terrible loss and we were all devastated by the horrific events on 9/11.
Another strange coincidence is that I was elected in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts on September 11th. That’s the day — I’m the first post-9/11 member of Congress. So the world changed, Washington changed, my responsibility changed, a lot of lives changed on that day, and that is not lost on me. But importantly, the families here today, men and women who lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters, their families and their lives were forever altered that day.
The American people, and the families of the victims in particular, deserve answers and deserve the opportunity to have a greater understanding of these events, and that has yet to happen, unfortunately. Twelve years after the attacks, many unanswered questions still remain. I strongly believe that these pages contain information that is vital to a full understanding of the attacks on 9/11, and the circumstances that led to them.
But this is not only a question of transparency, which Walter talked to. It’s not just that transparency is good in this case, and looking back and answering questions. I think also, these 28 pages, the nature of the disclosures here, I think is instructive to our foreign policy going forward. So it is not just looking backward, it is actually informing Congress to make sound, solid decisions going forward. That might be the most valuable. While there is certainly decency and justification for releasing these documents, there’s also, I think instructive value going forward.
I read the classified sections this past October, after being encouraged to do so by my friend Mr. Jones, and after reading them, it became clear to me that we owed it to the families of the victims, and to the American public, to work to make these pages available. I do want to just add a little detail, as Walter correctly laid out sort of the situation; it’s a somewhat cumbersome process for a member of Congress that has 9,000 other things to do, but you’ve got to submit your letter down, then you go down, and they sit with you, and you really don’t have an opportunity to answer questions. And you’re not allowed to take any notes. But after reading the 28 pages, I only said one thing during the time that I was there, and at the end of the day, I informed both intelligence officers who were there with me that day, I said, “I need to be honest with you,” and I said, “When I get up from this table and I got out that door,” I said, “I am going to sponsor a resolution before the United States Congress to make this information public.” And they both scratched down notes of their own, they were allowed to keep notes, but I said, “that’s how important I think this is,” and I said, “I think it’s important that I be honest with you, because I feel so strongly about this.”
I’m pleased to be working with my colleagues from North Carolina, Congressman Walter Jones and Mr. Massie from Kentucky. I think Mr. Grimm from New York is on board. I know that — I’m trying to think — a Congressman from California…
REP. JONES: Alcee Hastings.
REP. LYNCH: Alcee Hastings from Florida; California — Dana Rohrabacher is also on board. And so we have growing interest, because of the involvement of the families of the victims. And we want to make sure that these pages see the light of day, and I want to take this opportunity just to urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to review these pages and to work with us to ensure that they are declassified, to encourage the President to take that step and declassify these documents.
Thank you: May God bless you, may God have mercy on the victims and their families, and may God continue to bless these United States of America. Thank you.
REP. JONES: Thank you, Steve. Thomas?
REP. THOMAS MASSIE: I’m going to be brief. I want to echo the statements of Congressman Jones and Congressman Lynch…
Q: Your name, Congressman?
REP MASSIE: I’m Thomas Massie from Kentucky. This is something that the families deserve to know, this information. It’s been a decade, over a decade, 13 years since this event happened, and we’ve had a narrative in the media and in the press, and in the collective American conscience, of what happened that day, but I don’t think it’s fully informed, and it won’t be fully informed until everybody gets to see these 28 pages.
And just to echo what Congressman Lynch said, I’m here for the families, but I’m also here for our country to look forward: We have to decide how to prevent another 9/11-type event from happening. Until you have the full picture of what actually happened, the intelligence picture, how can you participate in that debate? How can we know what we do will prevent another 9/11 from happening? And how can we know that some of the things that, maybe, we would otherwise endeavor to do, might be overreactions?
So, also, I want to talk about the experience of sitting down and reading these 28 pages: It’s in a room, where it’s soundproof and you’re escorted in there, you’re escorted out, and there are no notes. But this is something, this is sort of shocking when you read it. As I read it, and we all had our own experience, I had to stop every couple pages and just sort of absorb, and try to rearrange my understanding of history for the past 13 years and years leading up to that. It challenges you to rethink everything. And so, I think the whole country needs to go through that; it’s going to be difficult and it could be embarrassing, but that is no reason to keep the truth from the American people.
I want to finish with two challenges: I want to challenge all the Congressmen who have not read these 28 pages, who have the ability to go read these 28 pages, to do it for your constituents. There are 435 districts in this country: Every Congressman needs to see these 28 pages. Then, I challenge them to co-sponsor Congressman Jones and Congressman Lynch’s bill, like I have.
And finally, the final challenge I want to issue, is to those who would keep these pages secret: You need to have your own press conference, you need to be held to a standard to answer the questions, why do you want to keep these 28 pages secret? In my estimation, as shocking as the 28 pages are, and as much as they sort of rearranged my understanding of what happened, I don’t think it would hurt our national security to release this, and it would give families the answers they deserve, as well.
Thank you very much.
REP. JONES: Thank you, Thomas. Terry Strada, could you come up and introduce yourself again?
TERRY STRADA: Yes, I will. Thank you.
Hi, my name is Terry Strada. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today, and I thank you for your time. I co-chair the JASTA Action Committee with Sharon Premoli, and for the last 12 years, serve on the steering committee of 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism. I speak on behalf of over 6,000 family members and survivors. I am joined today with other members of the 9/11 community, and on behalf of everyone here, I would like to thank Congressmen Walter Jones and Stephen Lynch for introducing House Res. 428. I also thank former Senator Bob Graham, who has tirelessly advocated for disclosure of the section of the Joint Inquiry’s report that has been kept a secret for 12 long years.
I want to tell you why House Rev. 428 is so important and introduce to you fellow-9/11 family members who are also here to convey why we need this resolution to pass. Like all of them, I suffered a heart-breaking personal loss on September 11th. My husband, Tom, was killed while at work for Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the 104th floor. He was the love of my life. Our children were seven, four, and four days old. Tom was a devoted family man, and we miss him, each and every day.
Because of 9/11, my children are three amongst 3,000 children, who suffered the loss of a parent at the hands of terrorism, and are growing up today without a mother or a father.
Ground Zero rescue workers are sick and dying to this day: Even after 12 long years, the death toll continues to rise.
I stand here, today, in support of House Res. 428, because I don’t believe people should get away with murder, and that is exactly what has happened. The people who gave financial, material, and logistical support to the 19 hijackers, though equally responsible along with the actual hijackers, have been held free from any accountability. No one has been held accountable in the eyes of justice for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, killed here, in America, in our country, on our soil.
One chief obstacle to accountability has been the fixation on obsessive secrecy afforded to protect those responsible for the murder of our friends and our family on 9/11. I say “our” because I recognize that on 9/11, we all lost someone we love, and what brings us here today, should concern all Americans. While my children and I lost Tom in that attack, the secrecy that continues to protect the behind-the-scenes supporters of terrorists continues to threaten all Americans. For our own security, we cannot continue to allow our government to keep secret the most crucial facts of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
I am not speaking hypothetically: The very subject of the 28 pages, torn from the Congressional Report investigating the 9/11 attacks is the specific sources of foreign support for the 9/11 hijackers. Incredibly, for over a decade, we have been denied the truth about who else was part of the planning and implementation of 9/11 ….
REP. LYNCH: …obligations that we’re under. You’re free to ask questions, but please, don’t ask myself or the other Congressmen that have read the information to disclose classified information. That would not serve us or serve the country well. There’s a way to get this in the public, we’re taking those steps. This is the proper way to do it. We do believe it should be made public and that’s what this resolution would do; it would call upon members of Congress to ask the President to declassify.
The President, it’s his order that keeps these pages hidden. So that’s the way it was classified, and we can undo that through a democratic process, and that’s what we’re going to cover.
Q: Congressman, what sort of feedback have you gotten from the leadership on this resolution? My understanding is, perhaps incorrectly, that it’s sitting in committee and there hasn’t been any action on it. That would seem to suggest there isn’t a whole lot of support.
REP. JONES: Real quickly, because I want the families to have their time with you, if they want to have that time: This is the beginning of a process. We have done radio shows nationally; we have great interest and newspapers have called: We are beginning to beat the drum today. That’s what this news conference is about, is beating the drum, and every beat of the drum says, “We want the truth! We want the truth!” And that’s what this is about, and it’s not going to go away. Today is not the end of this effort. Today is the beginning, and we’re going to win this for the families, and for the American people.
I’m going to let the ladies come up. If you got five or six questions, then we members of Congress can talk to you afterwards, but this is stressful for them, I know.
Q: What’s in the report that’ll help you? What do you need help on?
ALICE HOAGLAND: Well, there are two books I’d recommend to you, written by Senator Bob Graham. One of them is called Intelligence Matters. It’s a work of nonfiction and he has gone into fiction by writing The Keys to the Kingdom, which is a suspense thriller, a fiction novel by Senator Bob Graham.
Q: What did he say?
HOAGLAND: Well, I’m in the middle of reading Keys to the Kingdom.
Q: Of what you read, what did he say?
HOAGLAND: Senator Graham has expressed that we need to more thoroughly look at the actions of Saudi Arabia, in the events of 9/11. He has said this freely, as we — I’ve listened to his interviews and I’ve tried to educate myself a little bit about what Senator Graham, what has triggered his extreme concern about this: That extreme concern which has brought the support of the other Congressmen. He helped write those 28 pages, and he is convinced that they need to be brought into the public eye, in spite of the excision by President Bush and the continuation, the sustenance of that excision by President Obama, in violation of his promise to the 9/11 families, that he would work to get those 28 pages…
Q: Could you give us the spellings of your names, and where you are from?
STRADA: Yeah, could we get that in just a minute?
HOAGLAND: Sure if you want.
STRADA: In just a second… I think, maybe if I can explain to you for a moment, there is this other layer to 9/11 that really hasn’t been exposed. We know about the hijackers, and we know what happened. But we don’t know about, or what is now coming to light, are these cells that were out in California, Sarasota and Los Angeles, all the way down to Sarasota, Florida;
Little [Great -ed] Falls, Virginia: there were groups of Saudi Arabian nationals that were here, for years, before and during the 9/11 hijackers’ time in this country, giving them the financial support that they needed to carry out their crimes against us. It’s not cheap to live here, so if you’re here for two years, and you have apartments and you’re renting cars, and you are buying first-class airline tickets to practice your acts, where was that money coming from?
What we are being led to believe, it’s all or most of it was coming from Saudi Arabia. And that needs to come out, that truth needs to be told. It should scare the hell out of all Americans that they were living here, amongst us for two years, doing this before they actually carried out 9/11. And to me, that’s a big reason why these 28 pages need to be released. It speaks to the financial assistance that was given to some of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers while they were here, living in this country for nearly two years.
REP. JONES: Yes.
Q: Two questions for the family members. Number 1, you referenced the meetings that took place, I believe in February 2009 in the Oval Office. What was the understanding that you got from President Obama, if, obviously it was a priority for him to meet with you, one of his very first weeks in office as President? What’s your understanding of what he actually promised to do, at the time, if you could say something about that?
HOAGLAND: Well, I didn’t get invited. I was out in California. Did you?
SYLVIA CARVER: No, I wasn’t there.
STRADA: No. But I do know from a 9/11 family member that was there, who has told me herself, personally, that they asked him, “Will you declassify the 28 pages?” and he said, yes, that he would.
HOAGLAND: Good! That’s wonderful!
REP. JONES: We can take on or two more questions, and then we’ll bring it to an end. Anyone?
Q: Where are you from? I didn’t catch that?
HOAGLAND: I’m from Los Gatos, California.
STRADA: New Vernon, New Jersey.
CARVER: White Plains, now.
Q: I understand that the Federal courts have recently reinstated a lawsuit and have basically said that a number of named individual Saudi officials, and at least one private entity, Dal Aviation, are now once again subject to Federal court. Could you say something about that action?
HOAGLAND: Well, we know that the release of those 28 pages would be very interesting, vital, for the pursuit of actions against Saudi Arabia by the 9/11 family members.
But beyond that, it’s important to release those 28 pages, because our national security is going to be threatened going forward. If we continue to think of Saudi Arabia as an ally, we will be led down the primrose path. There are things that Saudi Arabia has done to help us, but it’s remarkable, what I learned in this work of fiction by Senator Bob Graham, The Keys to the Kingdom! It’s remarkable, the role of Saudi Arabian, important, prominent families, called the “golden chain,” and how very much they helped to ensconce people, Saudi Arabian nationals into San Diego and into a town in New Jersey, and down in Sarasota, Florida — which especially rankles the Senator because that’s his hometown, his home state.
REP. JONES: All right, we’ll take a question back here, and this will be the last question, but you can see the ladies if they want to talk when we’ve finished the news conference. This’ll be the last question.
Q: But don’t you think there’s at least some national interest in the relationship with Saudi Arabia? Obviously, the administration and the State Department think that there is a value there. And also, therefore, in having the 28 pages classified for so long?
HOAGLAND: Are you asking me?
HOAGLAND: I think that it is extremely valuable to maintain our relationship with Saudi Arabia. But I think that it is important for us to go into it with our eyes open, to understand Saudi Arabia’s sympathies and its past actions, to realize, that it is not innocuous, that the relationship is flawed! And it is political, in some respects.
Q: How do you know the 28 pages deal Saudi Arabia?
HOAGLAND: Well, because Senator Graham has said so….
STRADA: You will see his video. It will become available after this press conference. He has said it a number of times.
HOAGLAND: Yeah, he has said it.
Q: [inaudible 25:51]
STRADA: He has said it a number of times.
HOAGLAND: Well, if you accept the word of Senator Bob Graham, you’ll realize that Saudi Arabia plays a key role in 9/11, and is mentioned frequently in this 28 pages.
Q: I thought Senator Graham was going to be here?
REP. JONES: Senator Graham was going to give us a video, that he would be making a statement in support of this effort and in support of the families. There was a glitch in putting the technology together. They have told us, and announced before we got here, that they will get this video statement by Sen. Bob Graham to our office and we will disperse it to anyone in the press that would like to have it emailed to you. You will have it, if you’d like to have it.
Q: Could I pose one last question to members of Congress? And I understand this is classified and you get trouble if you reveal names and specifics: But is it fair to infer from what you’ve said that what is contained in the 28 pages deals with the activities of a foreign government that worked against the United States?
REP. JONES: As Stephen Lynch just whispered to me, that the pages speak for themselves, and if these pages are made public then you will have the answer you’re looking for.
Thank each and every one. The families get the biggest thanks: This pain has been with them for over 12 years, and we thank you. You are important to whether we get this declassified or not, so thank you for being here, and my colleagues in Congress, thank you so much.
HOAGLAND: We’re so glad you’re here. [applause]
Transcript of the Video Message from Senator Bob Graham (D-FL)
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: Good morning, I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this conference, which is going to be discussing some of the most important issues affecting the relationships within Congress and the Executive relationships between government and its people, and the national security of our nation. It’s very significant that this conference is being held, the day after Senator Feinstein made her statements relative to the relationship between the inquiry which has been conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA. Because what we’re going to be talking about today, raises many of the same fundamental issues.
Immediately after 9/11, the leadership of the House and Senate asked the Chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee to do what Congress had never done in 200 years, and that is, to form a joint committee for purposes of conducting an inquiry as to what had happened in 9/11, with particular focus on the role of the United States intelligence community.
We spent the better part of 15 months, working on that inquiry. We had staff that represented persons who were knowledgeable in each of the intelligence community. We had persons who had experience in the Department of Justice, in other law-enforcement-related agencies of the Federal government. We conducted hundreds of interviews, read thousands of pages of documents, and in December of 2002, produced an 800-plus-page report. That report took over six months in the declassification process, and when the report was returned in publicly releasable form, there were a number of specific redactions. There were names and places and other specific pieces of evidence which were withheld.
But the most stunning thing, was an entire chapter, 28 pages, was censored, from word one to the last word of the chapter. That chapter dealt primarily with who financed 9/11. That was a very fundamental question, because it went to an even larger question. And that is: Did those who committed that heinous attack on September 11th, did they act alone, or were they supported by a network of individuals?
All of the people who have been in leadership positions of investigations into 9/11 have come away with the feeling that it was implausible to believe that these 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had only been in the United States for a — if any — a very brief period of time, could have carried out such a complex operation, which required completion of the planning, the practicing, and then, finally, the execution of the plot.
A key part of that question of whether they acted alone or had support, related to the financing of 9/11: How could these people have financed a project that was as expensive, in terms of the cost of the 19 individuals, without having some support network? That missing chapter provides evidence that would be important to answer the question: Did these people act alone?
That chapter has now been censored, since the summer of 2003, for over 10 years. Whatever reason there may have been for the initial censorship, has long since passed. At the time that we heard that it was being censored, Sen. Dick Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, who was the vice-chair of the Senate Committee, and myself as chair, both agreed that there was no reason to censor that 28-page, important chapter, no reason for national security reasons.
But here we are, 10 years later, and it continues to be censored.
I want to thank the members of the Congress who are taking the leadership in using the prerogatives, and I think, obligations that Congress has in our system, to demand that the Executive release this information. It is important for a number of reasons: It’s important for justice. There are thousands of Americans, who are currently litigating against countries like Saudi Arabia, and other entities, for their complicity in 9/11, and therefore, their responsibility to accept some of the horrific cost which have befallen those families because of the loss of a loved one. That justice to date has been denied, in part, because important information that would sustain their claims has been withheld, such as, this 28-page chapter.
Second, it’s important to set the historical record correct. If we are going to not repeat the past, but learn from the past, in order to avoid incidents such as 9/11 in the future, we need to know everything we can, as truthfully and fully as possible, about what actually happened on 9/11, and in the preparation for 9/11.
And finally, it’s a matter of current national security. If you feel, as I do, that there was a network of support for the 9/11 hijackers, what reason do we have to believe that that network was abandoned, immediately after 9/11? What reason do we have to believe that it’s not in existence today, ready to be used for a future attack against the United States?
These are the issues that are at stake in the question of whether the Executive branch, with concurrence and leadership of the members of Congress, will make this information available to the American public, so we will be a more just, a more informed, and a more secure nation in the future.
I again express my appreciation for those who are leading this effort, and I wish you well. Thank you.