Thursday October 09, 2014

Did censoring a 9/11 report pave the way for ISIS?

Listen 11:34

A former U.S. senator and co-chair of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks says the rise of ISIS could have been stemmed if 28 pages from the inquiry's report had not been classified.

Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL)
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

As co-chair, Bob Graham was one of the authors of the report, 28 pages of which have remained classified since it was published in 2002. At the time U.S. President George W. Bush said releasing the information posed a threat to national security.

Some who have had read the excised pages say they relate to Saudia Arabia's support for the 9/11 hijackers

Graham says that Saudi Arabia has a long history of ideological and financial support for Wahhabism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. ISIS subscribes to that interpretation.

Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers,
Khalid al-Mihdhar (L) and Nawaf al-Hazmi...who have been identified by the FBI as two of the hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon.

"I believe that had the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 been disclosed by the release of the 28 pages and by the declassification of other information as to the Saudi role and support of the 9/11 hijackers that it would have made it much more difficult for Saudi Arabia to have continued that pattern of behaviour...and I think would have had a good chance of reigning in the activity that today Canada, the United States and other countries either are or are not considering going to war with," said Graham in an interview with Brent Bambury host of Day 6 on CBC Radio.

Graham's comments come as the Obama administration faces increasing pressure to release those 28 secret pages. A bipartisan resolution is calling on the White House to make them public. Democratic congressman Stephen Lynch from Massachusetts, who co-sponsored the resolution, has said he thinks information in those pages has a direct bearing on the war against the ISIS. Graham agrees.

"The connection is a direct one. Not only has Saudi Arabia been promoting this extreme form of religion but it also has been the principal financier, first of Al Qaeda then of the various Al Qaeda franchises around the world specifically the ones in Somalia and Yemen and now the support of ISIS," said Graham.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to students faculty and staff at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass. Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Graham's statements come on the heels of controversial remarks made by Vice President Joe Biden. Speaking to a crowd at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Biden implied that Saudi Arabia was partly to blame for the rise of ISIS.

"Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria," said Biden in response to a question. He also said that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were so determined to topple Bashar Al Assad's regime in Syria that they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tonnes of weapons into the hands of extremist groups.

"So now what's happening, all of a sudden, everybody is awakened because this outfit called ISIL, which was al-Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space and territory in [eastern] Syria, work with al-Nusra, who we declared a terrorist group early on. And we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them."

Biden said his administration eventually persuaded its allies to cease that support and cooperate in the military campaign against ISIS. He since apologized for his statements.

Graham says it's not just Joe Biden who has singled out Saudi Arabia for its support of extremist groups. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made similar claims in a top secret cable released by Wikileaks.

"More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," said the 2009 document signed by Clinton.

U.S. Navy F-18E Super Hornet jets leave to support military operations against ISIL after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Iraq, October 4, 2014 in this picture released by the US Air Force October 6, 2014. REUTERS/USAF/Staff Sgt. Shawn 

Asked whether the release of the 28 pages could have had an impact on Canada's recent decision to take part in the U.S. lead military campaign, Graham said it's too late to set back the clock.

"ISIS is a reality. It's brutal and it has the potential of reaching in to North America through the apparently substantial number of Canadian and U.S. persons who are now fighting with ISIS. I think had the 28 pages been released 10 years ago and had dampened the ability and commitment of Saudi Arabia to export its extreme form of Wahhabism and exposed the Saudis funding of these extreme organizations it may have avoided the necessity of having a debate in the Canadian parliament as to whether to go to war."