What was on the 18- and-a-half minutes of tape erased by the Nixon White House? We’ll likely never know.
While theories and speculation about the content of that lost material still resonate, particularly in alcoves of the Internet, there is one contemporary puzzle that is beginning to attract the attention of lawmakers and citizens.
From the day of its release in 2002, 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001 — commonly referred to as the 9/11 Commission Report — have remained classified.
Not only is the content of those pages being kept hidden, but so is the reason for their continuing classification.
Although the public is prohibited from learning the content of the redacted portion of the report, a handful of lawmakers have looked through the protected pages and believe it is time to make Americans aware of what’s contained therein.
In an interview with former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul recorded on August 14, Representative Walter Jones (R-N.C.) gave Paul a glimpse into the procedure he (Jones) had to follow to read the redacted section.
You have to go down into a room that is guarded by uniformed officers, and then also you have an FBI person to sit there in the room. You can’t make any notes. The Bush people do not want it released. It’s not a national security issue. But it would be embarrassing to the previous administration if this information is opened for the public.... There will be no hope for America’s future if the American people don’t know the truth about a tragedy such as 9/11.
In December 2013, Representative Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) reported on his own experience with the document:
Twelve years after the horrific September 11 attacks, unanswered questions still remain. These pages contain information that is vital to a full understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding this tragedy. The families of the victims and the American people deserve better; they deserve answers, they deserve a full accounting, and that has not happened yet.
Ron Paul’s Voices of Liberty website published comments made by several other former and current legislators echoing the sentiments of Jones and Lynch.
Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) in a March 12, 2014 press conference with Congressman Jones and Congressman Lynch — “This is something the families deserve to know, this information. It’s been a decade — over a decade: 13 years — since this event happened. And we’ve had a narrative in the media and in the press and in the collective American conscience of what happened that day. But I don’t think it’s fully informed and it won’t be fully informed until everybody gets to see these 28 pages.... I had to stop every couple pages and just sort of absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history for the past 13 years and the years leading up to that. It challenges you to rethink everything.”
Former Senator and Chairman of the Senate intelligence Committee Bob Graham (D-Fla.) in an interview with HuffPost Live in December 2013 — “This is not just a matter of something that happened a dozen years ago. This has real consequences today. It has real consequences in terms of justice. There are thousands of Americans who are victims of 9/11 who have been trying to secure justice through our federal court system and who have been largely blocked by our federal government through denying them access to information that would be necessary to successfully pursue their litigation and raising sovereign immunity on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Former Congressman and Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) in an interview with independent journalist Luke Rudowski in 2001 — “We do not claim in this report to have written the final truth.”
And former Congressman Hamilton on C-SPAN coverage of the 9/11 Commission Report 10th Anniversary on July 22, 2014 — “I am embarrassed that they are not declassified. We emphasized throughout transparency. And I assumed incorrectly that our records would be public — all of them, everything. And then when I learned that a number of the documents were classified and even redacted, I was surprised and disappointed. I want those documents declassified. I am embarrassed to be associated with a work product that is secret.”
To put pressure on the Obama administration to make the classified portion of the 9/11 report public, Representatives Jones, Lynch, Massie, and seven others are co-sponsoring a resolution to that end.
House Resolution 428 specifically requests that the president “declassify the 28-page section of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001,” declaring that “ the contents of the redacted pages are necessary for a full public understanding of the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, attacks upon the United States,” and “the families of the victims and the people of the United States deserve answers about the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, attacks upon the United States.”
To add to the pressure on the president, on his Voices of Liberty website Paul is calling for all Americans to upload a video of themselves explaining why they believe the redacted portion of the 9/11 should be released.
We are calling on you to make your voice heard. Record a short, simple video message of yourself saying: "I deserve to know the truth hidden in the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 report."
Upload it to YouTube and share it on social media with the hashtag #Declassify, challenging others to do the same.
There is more to Paul’s push to completely declassify the document than just learning about the events after 9/11. In point of fact, in an interview with Charles Goyette, New York Times best-selling author and host of Money and Markets, the libertarian icon intimated that he believes the Bush administration had advance notice of the attacks.
“I believe that if we ever get the full truth [about 9/11], we’ll find out that our government had it in the records exactly what the plans were, or at least close to it,” said Paul, during the interview.
“Does that prove the fact that our president and others actually sat down and laid the plans and did this? I don’t think it does,” he added.
Finally, lest there be any doubt that Paul recognizes that Americans have more to fear from the terrorists on the Potomac than on the Tigris, Paul told Goyette:
Our own government did more harm to the liberties of the American people than bin Laden did. [Bin Laden] was a monster himself, but that was minor compared to the damage done financially, the people that have died. And here we are, 24 years, and we’re still fighting a war in the pretense that had something to do with 9/11.
While such efforts to pump sunshine into the shadowy recesses of government cover-ups are laudable, they seem to be asking the emperor to admit he’s naked. A congressional resolution — not even a bill, a resolution — meekly worded and completely non-binding is hardly the level of aggressive oversight a Congress committed to exposing conspiracies in high places would demonstrate.
Photo: AP Images
Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American. Follow him on Twitter @TNAJoeWolverton.