WASHINGTON — Recent allegations from a convicted al Qaeda terrorist have brought new attention to an old debate over whether the White House should release 28 still-classified pages from the 9/11 Commission Report, the majority of which was released over ten years ago.
The allegations were made by Zacarias Moussaoui in sworn statements filed as part of a legal brief in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the families of 9/11 victims against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in financing the attacks.
A cloud of suspicion has hung over the Middle Eastern kingdom since the attacks, in part because of the U.S. government’s continued refusal to release the last still-classified pages of the report, which are said to focus on the role of foreign governments in the plot.
Saudi officials asked the U.S. to release the redacted 28-page section in 2003, saying this would give them the opportunity to defend themselves against claims of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which they have long denied.
But the Bush administration refused, saying the material would jeopardize their ability to gather intelligence on suspected terrorists.
Families of 9/11 victims say President Barack Obama personally promised he would release the pages, but his administration has not done so to date.
Moussaoui — sometimes referred to as “the 20th hijacker” — now says he was tasked by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden with creating a digital database of the terror group’s donors, and that his list included members of the Saudi royal family.
He also claims to have met with members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia and hand delivered letters from bin Laden.
CNN cannot independently confirm the allegations made by Moussaoui, whose credibility and mental state have been called into question in the past.
The Saudi embassy in Washington said in a statement Tuesday, “There is no evidence to support Moussaoui’s claim. The Sept. 11 attack has been the most intensely investigated crime in history and the findings show no involvement by the Saudi government or Saudi officials.”
The statement also cites the 9/11 Commission’s report, which found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”
The report does concede however, that its conclusion “does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda.”
And in January, commission member Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator from Florida, told CNN’s Michael Smerconish the still-classified pages in question “primarily deal with who financed 9/11, and they point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia.”
Graham also submitted a statement as part of Tuesday’s legal filing, saying, “I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia.”
Graham has called on the administration to de-classify the pages.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Florida Democrat, said Thursday that the 28 classified pages, which he’s read as part of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, do not contradict Graham’s statements.