In Depth

US poised to publish secret file on Saudi Arabia and 9/11

Classified 28-page report could link Saudi government with Twin Tower hijackers

wd-911-160426.jpg

The White House has suggested it is finally ready to release a classified document that could link the Saudi Arabian government with the 9/11 hijackers, a move that could have serious and widespread diplomatic consequences.

"The Obama administration has said it will decide by June whether or not to declassify these documents," says the Wall Street Journal. "But, in private, senior US officials have indicated the White House will move ahead with making the documents public."

Saudi Arabia has threatened economic reprisals if the US government links senior Saudis to the attacks.

What do we know so far?

The classified 28-page report is part of a 2002 Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 11 September attacks.

Former president George W Bush claimed the publication of pages relating to Saudi Arabia would damage the US's national security by "revealing sources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror".

Two congressmen, both of whom have seen the document, are behind the bipartisan motion for declassification. Public clamour for at least some of the report to be published has been growing since allegations emerged about attempts by Saudi officials to keep their alleged roles in the attacks secret.

"The most important unanswered question of 9/11 is: did these 19 people conduct this very sophisticated plot alone, or were they supported?" says former senator Bob Graham.

This weekend, Rudi Giuliani, the mayor of New York at the time, claimed he had been given a cheque for $10m (£6.8m) by a Saudi prince in an effort to persuade him to deflect attention away from the kingdom.

"His money he can keep and go burn it in hell," said Giuliani.

Another Republican who has seen the report said it also sheds light on why Bush was so opposed to its publication – and on the relationship between his administration and Saudi Arabia.

What diplomatic consequences could it have?

The information "threatens to have severe and widespread repercussions", potentially igniting a "diplomatic war", says The Independent.

Congress is already considering introducing legislation that would enable victims' families to sue Saudi Arabia over alleged links with Al-Qaeda terrorists and the report could be used as a key piece of evidence in any trial.

Earlier this month, the Saudi government, once a key Middle East ally for the US, warned it would sell off hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of US assets if the bill is passed, the New York Times reports.

Despite promising to veto any congressional bill, it now appears the White House has bowed to pressure and will release at least part of the classified chapter.

The potential release of the documents could not have come at a worse time for US-Saudi relations, which have become increasingly strained after a drop in oil prices, the US-led multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

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