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No proof of Saudi govt involvement in Sept 11 attacks, says CIA chief

Updated June 13, 2016

WASHINGTON: CIA Director John Brennan has said there is no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials supported the Sept 11 attacks.

Mr Brennan’s remarks, in a weekend interview with al-Arabiya news channel, addressed the still-secret 28 pages of a congressional inquiry into the 2001 attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

President Barack Obama has promised to publicly release all or part of the 28 pages of the report, which could happen as early as this month. The rest of the report was released in December 2002.

Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of that bipartisan congressional panel, and others say the 28 pages point suspicion at the Saudis. Mr Graham said it was important for the public to know that all of the still-classified allegations were thoroughly investigated.

Mr Brennan had said earlier that the 28 pages contained preliminary information about possible Saudi links to the attackers that had not been corroborated or vetted at the time. He said that the 9/11 Commission, which did a follow-on investigation into the attacks, ultimately found nothing that pointed to Saudi complicity.

“Subsequently the Sept 11 commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement, Saudi government involvement and their finding; their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi senior officials individually had supported the Sept 11 attacks,” Mr Brennan told al-Arabiya, the Saudi-owned broadcaster, on Saturday.

“Indeed, subsequently the assessments that have been done have shown it was very unfortunate that these attacks took place but this was the work of Al Qaeda, (Al Qaeda leader Ayman) al-Zawahri, and others of that ilk,” said Mr Brennan, who called Riyadh a strong US partner in fighting terrorism. The CIA chief said he supported the release of the still classified part of the congressional inquiry.

The Saudi government says it has been “wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity” in the attacks, is fighting extremists and working to clamp down on their funding channels. Still, the Saudis have long said they would welcome declassification of the 28 pages because it would “allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner”.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2016