Administration spokesman Josh Earnest is changing his tune regarding the release of a classified portion of the congressional 9/11 report, just days after the Director of the CIA claimed the section should not be disclosed to the public.
The 28 pages in question could implicate elements of Saudi Arabian society in assisting the hijackers, according to the reports’ authors.
“Those 28 pages are essentially unvetted law enforcement and investigative materials,” Earnest told the press on Tuesday, reiterating statements made over the weekend by CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan claimed on NBC that the classified pages contain “very, very inaccurate information,” which could harm US foreign interests.
“I think some people may seize upon that uncorroborated, unvetted information that was in there that was basically just a collation of this information that came out of FBI files, and to point to Saudi involvement,” Brennan alleged.
On Monday, Earnest backed up Brennan’s comments, saying they are “entirely in line” with conclusions made by others who’ve examined the material, including co-chairs of a separate independent 9/11 inquiry, Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean. The pair recently wrote an op-ed that also described the classified information as “unvetted.”
A CBS 60 Minutes report last month renewed interest in the release of the 28 pages. It featured interviews with lawmakers who co-chaired the joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks, and oversaw the publication of the the panel’s final report, including the portion that was later classified by the Bush Justice Department.
Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) claimed the section shows that the 9/11 hijackers received “substantial” support from inside Saudi Arabia.
In the weeks prior to Brennan’s comments, the White House appeared amenable to releasing the documents, or at least unwilling to question their veracity.
“I can tell you that the Director of National Intelligence has indicated that they’re hopeful that they will be able to complete the process of the review of these 28 pages before the end of President Obama’s tenure in office,” Earnest told reporters last month after the 60 Minutes report.
“I think the President has made clear that trying to prevent bureaucratic over-classification is something that we’ve identified as a policy priority,” he added, further suggesting the administration was open to release.
One consistent theme from Earnest’s statements, however, has been his unwillingness to disclose whether or not President Obama has even read the 28 pages.
“The president basically feels he has sufficient information about what’s included in the 28 pages,” Earnest said on Tuesday, again declining to definitively say whether or not the president has reviewed the classified section.