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The 28 Saudi Pages

Are we really sure who our friends and our enemies are in the Mideast?
saudi flag

I commend to you today Scott McConnell’s TAC piece about the US re-engagement militarily in the Middle East, especially this part about the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 Report:

Not included are some more specific points, including facts which raise the possibility that two of the hijackers were in rather more direct contact with and given substantial assistance by officials affiliated with the Saudi embassy. Many of the loose threads are gathered up and detailed in a 28-page segment of the 9/11 Commission report.

Curiously, President Bush ordered those 28 pages classified, so that no one without extremely rare security clearances could read them. Former Senator Bob Graham of Florida is one person who has read them, and who then pressed hard for deeper investigation of the Saudi role. Said Graham, pondering Bush’s role in keeping the Saudi information under wraps: “It’s as if the President’s loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America’s safety.” Obama promised to release the classified material shortly after his inauguration, but has not done so. One official who read the classified material is quoted by Summers and Swann: “If the twenty-eight pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight.”

The American public, in whose name Syria is being bombed, deserves to see those 28 pages. We need to know the kind of things our government does to support its allies in the Middle East. And by the way, on this NSA abuse of power too, which James Bamford wrote about in the NYT not long ago, but about which I’m just learning. Excerpt:

Among [Edward Snowden’s] most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

Earlier this month, some Israeli veterans of Unit 8200, the elite IDF intelligence unit that received this information, publicly refused to participate in operations involving the occupied territories, saying that the information is being put to morally unjustifiable use.

The question is: do the American people want to know any of this about the Saudis, the Israelis, and our other allies in the region? I think I know the answer, and it makes me despair.

McConnell says there is a bill in Congress demanding declassification of the 28 pages, which Obama has so far refused to do. I understand why Bandar Bush’s “brother” would fall all over himself to protect the Saudis. But Obama?

I recommend that you visit the website 28pages.org, which is dedicated to lobbying Congress to declassify those pages. Watch this short clip of Rep. Thomas Massie, one of the bill’s cosponsors, describing the impact of reading those 28 pages, which he has done:

Money quote:

And it was a really disturbing event for me to read those. I had to stop every two or three pages and rearrange my perception of history. And it’s that fundamental — those 28 pages….It certainly changes your view of the Middle East.



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