US President Joe Biden gave approval for the request by the Justice Department to launch a new review of classified documents regarding the 9/11 attacks. The move came following the victims’ families telling the US President at the 20th memorial events of the attacks that he would not be welcomed unless evidence that could clarify Saudi role in the attack is promulgated.
According to the statement issued by the White House on Monday, US President Biden said, “As I promised during my campaign, my administration is committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law, and to adhering to the rigorous guidance issued during the Obama-Biden Administration on the invocation of the state secrets privilege.”
In the statement, Biden also added, “In this vein, I welcome the Department of Justice’s filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible.”
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York wrote to the courts handling the 9/11 families’ lawsuit against Saudi Arabia earlier Monday, informing them that “the FBI has decided to revisit its past privilege arguments to find additional information acceptable for disclosure.”
Being a lawyer of the victims’ families, Brett Eagleson, whose father Bruce Eagleson was killed in the attacks, made a statement following the decision, saying he will remain dubious until the records are published. Speaking to Reuters, Eagleson said, “We appreciate President Biden acknowledging our families today as we pursue justice and accountability against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” He also added, “Unfortunately, however, we have heard many empty promises before.”
Last September, a US court issued a verdict, requesting Saudi Arabia to make its 24 current and former officials accessible, including a former US ambassador, for interrogation in the lawsuit.
While the contents of the depositions remain a secret, the families are renewing their efforts to have Washington lift the gag on evidence in the court case against Riyadh and divulge the findings of an investigation investigating Saudi culpability in the attacks, dubbed Operation Encore. There were 15 Saudi nationals among nineteen people involved in the attacks.
Both chambers of the US Congress voted in 2016 to overturn President Barack Obama’s veto of a measure that would have allowed 9/11 victims’ families to indict Saudi Arabia.