9-11: Congressional Joint Inquiry Report; the 28 pages, a comment

Update, March 28, 2015

And here is the Dan Christensen response to the panel’s report, “Miami Herald” March 27, 2015

Report Backtracks on Sarasota Saudis

Update, March 25, 2015

A three-member panel has conducted a review of where the FBI stands in regard to the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. “ideastream” published a short article, this date, “Panel Finds FBI Made Strides After Sept. 11, But Must Speed Reforms.”

According to ‘ideastream’ the panel found that, “Contrary to media reports, the FBI did not have a source in the 1990’s with direct access to [Osama bin Laden] nor was there credible evidence linking the Sarasota, Florida, family to the 9/11 hijackers.”

Panel members were Bruce Hoffman, Edwin Meese, and Timothy Roemer.

Update, February 18, 2015

And, now, “The Hill” has it a bit wrong, which is baffling.  “The Hill” leads its article with this comment:

President Obama is coming under pressure from lawmakers to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 report that were blacked out when the document was first released to the public.

We can suppose that the oblique reference to “the 9/11 report” is actually to the Congressional Joint Inquiry report, but that’s not quite the way it reads. “The Hill” does acknowledge that there were two separate reports. I am not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that they actually know which one was redacted.

The push has also gained momentum with the endorsement of former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who, as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, oversaw a congressional inquiry into the attack that was separate from the 9/11 Commission.

And in other news, family members Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken wrote a succinct, published letter to the “New York Times.” The letter references an earlier, accurate, “Times” article of Feb 4, 2015, “Claims against Saudis Cast New Light on Pages of 9/11 Report.” The “Times” clearly understands the difference between the Congressional Joint Inquiry work and that of the 9/11 Commission.

A still-classified section of the investigation by congressional intelligence committees into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has taken on an almost mythic quality over the past 13 years — 28 pages that examine crucial support given the hijackers and that by all accounts implicate prominent Saudis in financing terrorism.

Update, Evening February 6, 2015

And here is a decent FactCheck.org summary of the 28-page issue

Update, February 6, 2015

And, now, CNN has it wrong. Laura Koran penned an article, “Renewed Debate over 9/11 Commission Report as new claims emerge,” published on February 5, 2015. Koran and contributors Jake Tapper and Chloe S0mmers wrote:

Recent allegations from a convicted al Qaeda terrorist have brought new attention to an old debate over whether the White House should release 28 still-classified pages from the 9/11 Commission Report, the majority of which was released over ten years ago.

That is simply wrong and now shows national media confusion about the distinction between the work of the 9/11 Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry that preceded it. Even worse, the CNN reporters have now made Senator Bob Graham a member of the 9/11 Commission.

And in January, commission member Bob Graham, a former U.S. senator from Florida, told CNN’s Michael Smerconish the still-classified pages in question “primarily deal with who financed 9/11, and they point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia.”

For the record, Senator Graham was a co-chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry. He was not a member of the 9/11 Commission.
Update, January 20, 2015

Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Towers, definitively addressed the 28-page issue in a September 9, 2014, article in the New Yorker. Wright’s narrative is clear-eyed, accurate, and best defines the publicly held knowledge concerning the issue.

Nevertheless, four months later, on January 19, 2015, a blogger, Michael Rubin, committed the error of conflating the Congressional Joint Inquiry Report with the 9/11 Commission Report. Rubin wrote:

And yet, so much remains inexplicably unknown about that day. President George W. Bush redacted 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report. A number of congressmen have read the redacted pages.

It is as if Wright had written in a vacuum, so far as the blogosphere is concerned.


In December, 2002, the report, “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001,” was published.  The title was carefully chosen. The Joint Inquiry examined intelligence failures on and around 9/11, but did not examine the events of the day, itself. That task was left to performed by the 9/11 Commission, an entity that was established only at the insistence and persistence of the 9/11 families. (This paragraph was revised and updated on February 18, 2015, at the suggestion of Lorie Van Auken, to clarify the narrow role of the Inquiry concerning intelligence failures.  Van Auken also pointed out, correctly, that the Inquiry could not leave a task to a Commission yet to be formed.)

Over time, the Joint Inquiry Report and the Commission Report have become conflated in the minds of some and redactions in the Joint Inquiry Report are often attributed to the Commission Report. Hopefully, this short article will help writers avoid any more conflation.

The Major Redaction

The Joint Inquiry report was redacted throughout, most notably the pages from page 396 through page 422, inclusive. That is a redaction of 27 pages in the copy I have, a printout of unclassified Senate Rept No. 107-351/House Rept. No. 107-792.

The confusion in page count arises, in part, because the relevant section of the report, “Part Four–Findings, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters,” is 28 pages. There is also an internal page reference sequence that goes from page 415 to page 443, 28 pages.

There are no redactions in the Commission Report.

The Finding

The Joint Inquiry reported that, “through its investigation, the Joint Inquiry developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States. The Joint Inquiry’s review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also has information, much of which has yet to be independently verified, concerning these potential sources of support.”

The Conflation

A recent article in “The American Conservative,” typifies a mistake made by multiple writers and bloggers. The article discusses a Saudi connection to the events of 9/11 and in the telling makes these statements:

Many of the loose threads are gathered up and detailed in a 28-page segment of the 9/11 Commission report.

Curiously, President Bush ordered those 28 pages classified, so that no one without extremely rare security clearances could read them.

That is a Joint Inquiry Report reference erroneously attributed to the Commission Report. This is not to single out the “Conservative,” it is just one example that has come to my attention.

A better example came my way via a 9/11 Google alert on October 8, 2014. In a “Huffington Post” article, “The Saudis, 9/11, ISIS, and American Secrecy,”  the journalist, David Vognar, opened his most recent post with this language.

There is a growing movement in the United States against secrecy and a growing distrust that government is operating in the people’s interest. I’ve written previously about this crisis in democracy. Related to both of these movements is a call for President Obama to declassify and release the 28 classified pages from the 9/11 Commission Report that President Bush deemed too vital to United States intelligence operations to be released in the 2004 report.

The journalist community, to have any credibility at all on this issue, needs to do better in understanding that the Joint Inquiry Report and The Commission Report are separate lanes of the road with a wide median between them.

Full Disclosure

While I did not participate in the writing of the redacted narrative I did read it, in draft, at least once.  I do not recall with any fidelity the contents, so I won’t speculate.  I was surprised at the extent of the redaction and my sense is that the pages should be reviewed for release. That undertaking is a nontrivial task. There are multiple equities involved—the agencies, the two houses of Congress, and two administrations.

My experience as an investigator for the DoD Inspector General provides perspective. During an investigation of the 1985 Zona Rosa Massacre in El Salvador we needed to visit the Reagan Presidential Library in order to review National Security Council information. That visit, by government investigators and facilitated by NARA, required the concurrence of the President of record, the sitting President and the General Counsels for both.

And that involved just one branch of Government, the Executive Branch. Add the Legislative Branch to the mix, not subject to FOIA, and the task compounds. Not to mention the agencies involved and their equities.