CIA Director John Brennan on Sunday defended the government's decision to withhold 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report, telling NBC the classified pages contain "inaccurate" information that could be used to tie Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 terror attacks.
"This chapter was kept out because of concerns about sensitive methods [and] investigative actions," Brennan told "Meet The Press" host Chuck Todd, adding that at the time these findings were issued, in 2002, the investigation into 9/11 was still underway.
Brennan said the 9/11 Commission Report contains "a combination of things that are accurate and inaccurate." Ultimately, he said, the joint inquiry "came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution, or Saudi officials or individuals, had provided financial support to al Qaeda."
The question of what is contained in the report has reemerged this year largely due to the efforts of former Florida Sen. Bob Graham (D), who was part of the original 9/11 Commission inquiry and who helped write the 28 classified pages.
Graham believes the FBI withheld information about a Saudi family in Sarasota, Florida, that he says had numerous connections to the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Two weeks before the attacks, the family left the U.S. to return to Saudi Arabia, a move Graham believes could indicate that they had advance warning of the attacks.
“One thing that irritates me is that the FBI has gone beyond just covering up, trying to avoid disclosure, into what I call aggressive deception,” Graham said this week in multiple interviews. The FBI denies that it withheld relevant information from the panel.
Brennan stressed the close ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and implied that the release of the missing 28 pages could damage the complex diplomatic, military and economic relationship between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia is already up in arms over a bill in Congress that would change the law to permit victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi government. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passed the Senate, but is yet to be voted on in the House. One sign of how much traction the bill has is the support it received from both Democratic presidential candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
President Barack Obama, however, opposes the bill, and is lobbying against it. The Saudi leadership has threatened to dump billions of dollars of U.S. assets that it holds if the bill advances.