Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) called in a press conference on Tuesday morning for the Obama administration to declassify information related to terrorism financing in a redacted section of a report from an inquiry conducted jointly by the Senate and House intelligence committees, becoming the most high-profile politician yet to join the declassification effort.
The Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, not to be confused with the published 9/11 Commission Report prepared by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, includes 28 classified pages that reportedly detail the financial involvement of the Saudi Arabian government.
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"We cannot let page after page of blanked-out documents be obscured behind a veil, leaving these families [of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks] to wonder if there is additional information surrounding these horrible acts," said Paul. "We owe it to these families and we cannot let this lack of transparency erode trust and make us feel less secure."
The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate said he would be adding an amendment to the defense authorization bill next week calling on President Obama to release the pages.
The declassification effort, also known as the "28 page movement," includes Sept. 11 victims’ families who are currently suing Saudi Arabia for its alleged involvement in the attacks. The families believe the redacted pages could include information that would bolster their case.
The section was classified by the Bush administration, which argued that it could expose sources and methods related to terrorism investigations. The Obama administration has continued this policy.
Others believe releasing the information could be harmful for additional reasons. Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, whose report was issued two years after the congressional inquiry took place, told the New Yorker last year that many of the allegations in that section were based on preliminary reports. He said they were not able to verify the claims during later investigations.
Tuesday’s press conference also included Reps. Walter Jones (R., N.C.) and Thomas Massie (R., Ky.), the former Florida senator Bob Graham, and Sept. 11 victims’ family members.
The members of Congress, who have each read the classified pages in an underground room in the Capitol building, said they do not believe there are compelling reasons to keep them from the public.
Graham said the information contained in the document was shocking and "will cause the American government to reconsider the nature of our relationship with Saudi Arabia."
But Paul declined to speculate on the consequences for the U.S.-Saudi relations.
"I see this more as a search for the truth," he said.
Paul acknowledged that should the administration not release the pages he has the ability to read them into the public record on the Senate floor—although he would not say whether he would take this step.
"We’re going to try the normal legislative procedure first and see how it goes," said Paul. "I will bring it up with the president, and I will ask him directly if he will do this."
Rep. Jones, who has led the declassification effort in the House, said he reached out to Paul’s father, Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman, while trying to get the presidential candidate involved in the issue.
"Rand Paul is my choice for president, so I reached out to his daddy, who had me on his [radio] show to talk about it," Jones told the Daily Beast.
The elder Paul is also on board with the "28 page movement," but has courted controversy while discussing the subject.
During a radio interview about declassification last August, Ron Paul said he believes the U.S. government had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks and did not stop them.
"I believe that if we ever get the full truth [about Sept. 11], we’ll find out that our government had it in the records exactly what the plans were, or at least close to it," said the former congressman.