Bush Won't Declassify Entire 9-11 Report
Jul. 29, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush refused Tuesday to declassify part of a congressional report on possible links between Saudi government officials and the Sept. 11 hijackers, saying that ``would help the enemy'' by revealing intelligence sources and methods.
The administration's decision was a rebuff to Saudi Arabia, which was upset by the contents of the intelligence report and seeks its declassification. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was meeting with Bush later Tuesday to air his concerns.
But Bush made plain he has no intention of backing off.
``I absolutely have no qualms at all, because there's an ongoing investigation into the 9-11 attacks, and we don't want to compromise that investigation,'' Bush said at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Rose Garden.
``If people are being investigated, it doesn't make sense for us to let them know who they are,'' Bush told reporters before meeting with al-Faisal.
Moreover, Bush said, ``declassification of that part of a 900-page document would reveal sources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror. ... It would help the enemy if they knew our sources and methods.''
The top Republican senator on the 9-11 inquiry, Richard Shelby, said Sunday that 95 percent of the classified pages could be released without jeopardizing national security. Bush ignored a reporter's question Tuesday on Shelby's assessment.
But he did leave the door open to declassifying portions of the report at some point.
``Perhaps at some point in time, down the road, after the investigations are fully complete, and if it doesn't jeopardize our national security, perhaps we can declassify'' the material, he said.
The dispute centers on 28 pages of redacted material in the congressional panel's report. The information is widely believed to center on Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers. Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied supporting the hijackers.
The Saudi government, some members of Congress and at least two presidential candidates have sought declassification of the section.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., during a campaign stop Tuesday, called on Bush to make public the section at issue. Kerry said his proposal was timed to coincide with the president's meetings with Saudi officials in Washington, which he said provide an opportunity ``to make the record clear.''
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., a presidential candidate and the co-chairman of a congressional committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, also called for declassification.
Graham had said that releasing the report would ``permit the Saudi government to deal with any questions which may be raised in the currently censored pages, and allow the American people to make their own judgment about who are our true friends and allies in the war on terrorism.'' Graham made the request in a Monday letter to Bush.
But White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that ``The material included in that section in question contains information about ongoing investigations, counterterrorism operations and sensitive sources and methods.''
After the report was released last Thursday, Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan issued a statement saying that ``28 blanked-out pages are being used by some to malign our country and our people.''
``Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages,'' he said.
House and Senate members released the full, 850-page report finding a series of errors and miscommunications kept U.S. authorities from pursuing clues before the attacks. The 28-page section dealing with ``sensitive national security matters'' was almost entirely redacted.