ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The missing 28 pages of a congressional report on the 9/11 attacks are no longer missing. And it turns out there are actually 29 pages, a full chapter about the role Saudi Arabia may have played in those attacks. Thirteen years after President George W. Bush ordered those pages classified as top secret, the Obama administration gave Congress the green light today to release them to the public.
Joining me to talk about what is in those 29 pages and why it took so long for them to come out is NPR national security correspondent David Welna. Hi, David.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Hi.
SHAPIRO: There's been lots of speculation about why these pages were kept secret, a lot of it having to do with what they might say about possible financial support from Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks. So you've looked at it. What's in there?
WELNA: Well, you know, there certainly is a lot there for those of us who don't have top secret security clearances and have not been able to see the part of the report that's been suppressed. The very first sentence in it sort of sums it up.
While in the United States, it reads, (reading) some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government.
And it goes on to say that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers. Now, it's important to point out that the words may be connected and alleged by some are used. This is a document that lays out a case for further investigation. It describes various Saudi nationals being in contact with and giving money to two of the hijackers while those two men who were themselves Saudis were learning to fly jetliners in San Diego. There are even associations made between these alleged enablers and the Saudi ambassador at the time to Washington. And all this is based on reports from the FBI and the CIA.
SHAPIRO: Let's talk about why this took so long to come out. Relatives of 9/11 victims who met with President Obama say he promised them twice that these pages would be made public, and yet it has only happened in the final months of his administration. Why?
WELNA: Well, you know, there's a very delicate relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The official explanation that was offered today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which authorized the partially redacted declassification is that these pages contain what it called still sensitive national security and law enforcement information. But it said the executive branch decided the harm done to national security from releasing these pages was outweighed by the public interest in additional transparency by the report's findings. Here's White House spokesman Josh Earnest's take on the issue.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOSH EARNEST: These pages while they don't shed any new light or change any of the conclusions about responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, they are consistent with the commitment to transparency that the administration has tried to apply to even sensitive national security issues.
WELNA: Now, the White House stands by the findings in a later report by the 9/11 Commission, which found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials funded al-Qaida.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR national security correspondent David Welna. Thanks, David.
WELNA: You're welcome, Ari.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.