President Bush is denying a Saudi request to declassify parts of a report into the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that deals with alleged links between members of the Saudi government and the hijackers. President Bush met Tuesday with the Saudi foreign minister to discuss the report.
President Bush said he will not declassify more of the congressional report because it could help what he calls "the enemy" by endangering efforts to uncover terrorist activities. "There's an ongoing investigation into the 9-11 attacks, and we don't want to compromise that investigation," he said. "If people are being investigated, it doesn't make sense for us to let them know who they are."
Saudi officials requested today's meeting between the president and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to push for more declassification because they say keeping secret parts of the report dealing with Saudi Arabia appears to suggest that the kingdom has something to hide.
The Saudi ambassador to the United States says his government has never supported terrorists but cannot respond to possible allegations in the report until the entire document is released. Much of the 900 page document was made public, but 28 pages dealing with Saudi Arabia were kept classified.
White House officials say a "great amount" of sensitive information has already been declassified and to release more could compromise future prosecutions. The president said secrecy is part of winning the fight against terrorism. "We have an ongoing war against al-Qaida and terrorists and the declassification of that part of a 900 page document would reveal sources and methods that will make it harder for us to win the war on terror," he said.
The congressional investigation reportedly makes no accusation that the Saudi government directly supported the terrorists, 15 of whom were Saudi citizens.
Instead, it pursues links between individual Saudis, including an employee of the country's civil aviation authority based in California who assisted two of the hijackers by putting down a security deposit for their apartment and arranging for a translator.
Democratic Senator Bob Graham Monday asked the president to declassify more of the report because of Saudi frustrations over rumors that have grown out of the 28 pages kept secret. Senator Graham says releasing the information would not only inform the American public but is important to U.S. Saudi relations.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the White House understands Saudi concerns about the report. President Bush says it may be possible to declassify more of that information at a later date if it no longer jeopardizes U.S. national security.