TIME TO COME CLEAN: Taking up the cause of families of Americans killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of senators has introduced bipartisan legislation that would push the intelligence community and the Justice Department to declassify thousands of documents that could identify additional co-conspirators.
“If the United States government is sitting on any documents that may implicate Saudi Arabia in the events of 9/11, these families and the American people have a right to know,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. “If information is power, then we must give our 9/11 families access to that information and any power it provides them as they carry forward their search for truth, justice, and accountability for the September 11th attacks.”
The documents would greatly help the year’s long legal effort by families and survivors who are suing the government of Saudi Arabia in federal court in New York, but the U.S. government has argued documents as too sensitive for disclosure and may open up the U.S. government to lawsuits.
The September 11th Transparency Act has the support of many Democrats, as well as two Republican co-sponsors: Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
THE SAUDI CONNECTION: The Saudi government has denied any connection to the attacks, and the 2004 9/11 commission report “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded Al Qaeda,” though it noted Saudi-linked charities could have diverted money to the group.
But family members and their lawyers are convinced that Saudi Arabia was complicit in the plot, and earlier this year, former Saudi officials were questioned under oath, but their depositions remain under seal, according to the Associated Press.
WHAT THE BILL DOES: The proposed legislation would require the Justice Department, the CIA, and the director of national intelligence to consider declassifying key documents related to the federal 9/11 investigations.
“The bill doesn’t require the agencies to declassify any specific documents, but the agencies must complete declassification reviews through their appropriate existing processes,” according to a press release. “The DOJ, CIA and DNI must provide Congress with justification if they decide not to declassify a document or record. The bill is modeled on the declassification review of the Bin Laden raid that Congress passed in 2014.”
Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Victor I. Nava. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues atDailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter:@dailyondefense.
Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what’s going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue!
HAPPENING TODAY: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. speaks at 2 p.m. at a National Press Club Headliners Luncheon.
SAFE HAVEN FOR HONG KONGERS:President Joe Biden has signed a memorandum that would allow thousands of Hong Kong citizens currently in the United States to stay for at least another 18 months without fear of deportation.
The temporary safe haven comes as Beijing has cracked down on freedom of speech and democracy, and jailed protesters under a sweeping new national security law.
“This action demonstrates President Biden’s strong support for people in Hong Kong in the face of ongoing repression by the People’s Republic of China, and makes clear we will not stand idly by as the PRC breaks its promises to Hong Kong and to the international community,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement.
‘IT WAS RIOT AND MAYHEM’: In an emotional ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Joe Biden signed legislation into law that awards Congressional Gold Medals to police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
And with lawmakers and police looking on, Biden called for Americans to not rewrite the history of the day.
“It wasn’t dissent. It wasn’t debate. It wasn’t democracy. It was insurrection. It was riot and mayhem. It was radical and chaotic. And it was unconstitutional. And maybe most important, it was fundamentally un-American,” Biden said.
“But while the attack on our values and our votes shocked and saddened the nation, our democracy did survive,” he said. And that’s because of the women and men of the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement officials who we honor today.”
CLOSE GUANTANAMO NOW: A group of 75 House members, all Democrats, have sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling on him to fulfill his pledge to close the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“We ask that as you take the steps necessary to finally close the prison, you act immediately to further reduce its population, ensure that the remaining detainees are treated humanely, and increase the transparency of military commission proceedings at Guantanamo,” the members write in a letter. “The continued operation of the prison is a stain on our international reputation and undermines our ability to advocate for human rights and the rule of law.”
The signatories include the chairmen of the House national security committees, Reps. Adam Schiff of Intelligence, Adam Smith of Armed Services, and Gregory Meeks of Foreign Affairs.
The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act contains a provision that would close Guantanamo by 2022 and remove a ban on transferring prisoners to the U.S., but the Senate version retains the language that has prevented moving so-called “forever prisoners” to supermax prisons on U.S. soil, where they might gain access to federal courts.
“We believe that some detainees can and should be tried in our federal courts, which have demonstrated they can effectively, fairly, and quickly try terrorism cases,” the House Democrats argue. “Other detainees should be repatriated to their home countries or settled in third countries with appropriate conditions and assurances for both their treatment and U.S. security.”
INDUSTRY WATCH:China is vowing retaliation after the U.S. announced the latest arms sale to Taiwan, the first under the Biden administration.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Wednesday approval of the potential sale of 40, 155mm M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems to Taiwan in a deal valued at up to $750 million.
The prime contractor is BAE Systems, Anniston, Alabama.
China’s foreign ministry called the sale “a serious infringement of China’s sovereignty and security interests,” according to the South China Morning Post. “It is sending a wrong signal to Taiwanese independence forces, and causing serious damage to China-US relations and the stability of the Taiwan Strait. China resolutely opposes [the sale] and has made a solemn representation to the U.S.”