WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday, said the Bush Administration’s reluctance to disclose information pertaining to foreign government support of the September 11th terrorists is another example of its failure to lead. Twenty-seven pages were redacted from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees’ report on failures leading up to the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history. The Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Thursday on foreign funding of terrorists.
“Rather than ducking behind a screen of secrecy,” said Lieberman, “the Administration should come clean on the report, level with the American people, and disclose the information everyone has a right to know… Presidential leadership is needed to guide us out of this morass, to take full responsibility for failures, and to provide the kind of openness and honesty that America needs and deserves.” Lieberman added that information disclosed in the report is equally as troubling as the information kept secret. For example, the report indicates that FBI Director Robert Mueller was unaware of the contents of the 27 pages until last year. And it appears that very little has been done to follow up on that information. “Again, I am bewildered as to why the President has not demanded an explanation from the leadership of the CIA and FBI,” Lieberman said. “Why wasn’t the Saudi suspect – Omar al Bayoumi, who is named in the report – extradited to the United States or interviewed by the FBI last year? Why hasn’t the President demanded accountability?” Following is the full text of Lieberman’s statement: “The American public would be well informed by those 27 redacted pages. We have been waiting far too long for the complete and unfettered truth of what happened on September 11th and until we do know the truth, we will not be in the strongest position to prevent a similar attack in the future. Two years is an unacceptable length of time to wait for this information. “The President and his spokesmen have said those missing pages contain information about an ongoing investigation and releasing them would jeopardize intelligence sources and methods. I assure you, neither I, nor Senators Graham and Shelby, the former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are interested in exposing on-going investigations nor in jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods. Yet Senator Graham has asked the President to release the 27 pages and Senator Shelby said that 95% of those censored pages could be de-classified. Even the Saudi government is calling on the Administration to reveal their contents. “The Administration’s position, therefore, is perplexing and its behavior leaves the unmistakable impression it has something to hide. Rather than ducking behind a screen of secrecy, the Administration should come clean on the report, level with the American people, and disclose the information the public has a right to know. “We must also pay attention to what is in the joint inquiry report regarding foreign financing of the September 11th terrorists rather than what isn’t in the report. The report indicates evidence and inconsistencies related to foreign government financing of the September 11th terrorists that demand further investigation. Most troubling, however, is that FBI Director Mueller did not know the contents of those 27 pages prior to October 2002. In other words, information contained within those pages about foreign support for the terrorists was in the hands of the CIA and FBI, yet it had not been thoroughly investigated, nor had it come to Director Mueller’s attention. “Again, I am bewildered as to why the President has not demanded an explanation from the leadership of the CIA and FBI. Why wasn’t the Saudi suspect – Omar al Bayoumi, who is named in the report and in numerous press accounts – extradited to the United States or interviewed by the FBI last year? Why hasn’t the President demanded accountability? “I would also like to know how our government is progressing in the complicated task of identifying the sources of terrorist financing and plugging them up. Only days after September 11th, President Bush signed an executive order to block the funds of terrorists, stating that he would “direct every resource at our command to win the war against terrorists, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence to starve the terrorists of funding.” “So, have the agencies devoted the necessary resources and cooperated fully to form a unified campaign against terrorist funding? Have they unsheathed every tool and instrument of intelligence and law enforcement to fight this battle? And, if they have not, I want to know what corrective measures have been taken, what measures still need to be adopted, and who is in charge? “This brings me back to questions about the secrecy and leadership of this Administration. Secrecy to protect our intelligence sources and methods is important but secrecy to protect Saudi Arabia or any other foreign government when it concerns terrorist attacks on our citizens is unacceptable. When Senator Shelby, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee which conducted the Joint Inquiry, states that he has read the 27 pages in question and, in his judgment, 95% of that section should be un-censored, and the Saudi government is also calling for its declassification, then I have to ask if this Administration’s obsession with secrecy will ever relent. Presidential leadership is needed to guide us out of this morass, to take full responsibility for failures, and to provide the kind of openness and honesty that America needs and deserves.”