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Will Joe Biden declassify secret 9/11 files under FBI review?

Victims' families say president not welcome at 20th anniversary memorial events unless the documents are released

The families of 9/11 victims are piling pressure on Joe Biden to approve the release of long-classified documents believed to contain information about the terrorists who carried out the attacks.

In a court filing last week in a long-running lawsuit by the families against Saudi Arabia, the US Justice Department said the FBI had “recently” closed part of of its investigation into the attacks and “was beginning a review of documents that it had previously said must remain secret with an eye toward disclosing more of them”. 

“The FBI has decided to review its prior privilege assertions to identify additional information appropriate for disclosure,” the department said in a letter in a New York federal court. “The FBI will disclose such information on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible.”

The promise of a review is “the latest development in a nearly two-decade odyssey for some of the families”, said The New York Times

The 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al-Qaeda, the Islamic extremist group behind the attacks, the paper continued.  But “the commission’s phrasing left some to speculate that there might be evidence of involvement by other, lower-ranking officials”. 

The FBI review was announced after almost 1,800 family members of 9/11 victims, survivors and first responders warned President Biden that he would be unwelcome at this year’s 20th anniversary memorial events “unless he declassifies the unreleased evidence”, The Independent reported.

“Twenty years later, there is simply no reason - unmerited claims of ‘national security or otherwise - to keep this information secret,” the families said in a letter sent to the White House, according to Reuters.

“But if President Biden reneges on his commitment and sides with the Saudi government, we would be compelled to publicly stand in objection to any participation by his administration in any memorial ceremony of 9/11.”

In a statement following the FBI review announcement, Biden said his administration was “committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law”. 

He continued: “In this vein, I welcome the Department of Justice’s filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible.” 

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