What's Inside The 28 Most Controversial Pages In Washington?
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Now more on Saudi Arabia, 9/11 and the 28 most controversial pages in Washington. They are the 28 classified pages of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into intelligence activities before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This is not the bipartisan, independent 9/11 Commission - that came later. Families of the 9/11 victims who are suing Saudi Arabia for allegedly backing the attack want those 28 pages made public. As we heard yesterday, they now cite claims made by Zacarias Moussaoui - a convicted 9/11 plotter - to back them. Joining us now is former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, of Neb., who has joined the families in calling for declassification of those 28 pages. He was a member of the 9/11 Commission and, Senator Kerrey, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
SENATOR BOB KERREY: Thank you.
SIEGEL: What's so important about these 28 classified pages?
KERREY: Well, actually, I think you can see the importance in rather unusual ally in this cause, which is Saudi Arabia itself. They want the pages declassified.
SIEGEL: They believe that they will exonerate them further, as they would see it.
KERREY: Well, I think it is likely that the 28 pages will show what the 9/11 Commission found, which is there's some connection between the Saudi government and not-for-profits and - that were raising money that found its way to al-Qaida. But I don't know. And that's the problem. You know, we - the 9/11 Commission reached out to the staff of the House that did this primary investigation that produced these 28 pages and did our analysis of Saudi Arabia's involvement alongside of theirs. And our conclusion, by the way, is different than what Saudi Arabia is saying. We didn't conclude that they were innocent in any complicity. We merely found that we didn't - we didn't find a direct connection. But our work was largely incomplete. We didn't have the opportunity to interview Zacarias Moussaoui. He was sentenced later and we didn't get access to that witness, so I just think it helps to clear the air - it's not likely to produce any earth shattering moment.
SIEGEL: At the time - at the time that the 9/11 Commission was doing its work, it was pretty well known that Saudis certainly had supported Osama bin Laden when he had been in Afghanistan some years earlier. And there was lots of talk about charities whose benefits went to people who were allied or working with Osama bin Laden. Did you come away with the sense that there was some likelihood of a much stronger, more direct, specific connection between Saudi money and al-Qaida-organized terrorist attacks?
KERREY: I mean, I just didn't know. I mean, the problem of the entire effort of the 9/11 Commission is we were trying to write the details of a conspiracy. It was a conspiracy to attack the United States of America - it was many years old in fact - and we were trying to unravel the details of that conspiracy. Some of which we were able to with absolute certainty ascertain the nature of the conspiracy and some of which we weren't. And this happens to be one of them where we couldn't with absolute certainty ascertain what kinds of connections there were. And, by the way, we don't need another 9/11 Commission. Congress has all the authority it needs and all I'd say, based upon this release of this statement that Moussaoui has made, Congress needs to follow up. They've got subpoena authority. They've got all the authority they need without creating a new 9/11 Commission.
SIEGEL: Do you understand the arguments against declassification? That it - does it protect sources and methods of gathering intelligence? Is that what this is about?
KERREY: I've heard that argument made, but I don't see anything in the 28 pages that puts sources and methods at risk. But I'm operating on a 10-year-old memory and I'm 71. So, you know, don't necessarily count on me, but Congress can evaluate it. They can look at it. If there's going to be sources and methods at risk, it'd have to be Saudi sources and methods. I mean, the Saudi government's asking for it to be declassified.
SIEGEL: Do you have any sense whatever or any - have you ever had the suspicion that members of the Saudi royal family were actually engaged with Osama bin Laden knowingly about an attack that would be staged against the U.S.?
KERREY: I hold no such suspicions. I think it's a really dangerous thing to do, just as I think it would be dangerous to suspect anybody without real evidence to reach that conclusion.
SIEGEL: Former Senator Bob Kerrey - a former member of the 9/11 Commission. Thanks for talking with us.
KERREY: It's a pleasure, nice to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.