Saudi Arabia ‘supported’ 9/11 hijackers: Commission member

John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 commission, says Saudi Arabia provided support to the hijackers. (file photo)

Saudi Arabia was deeply involved in supporting the 19 hijackers who carried out  the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City, a former US member of the 9/11 Commission says, urging President Barack Obama’s administration to declassify the remaining 28 pages of the commission’s report.

John Lehman, who served as the US Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, made the revelation on Wednesday and became the first of the 10 commissioners who have publicly discussed Riyadh’s role after issuing their final report in 2004.

In that year, the congressional panel’s final report was largely viewed as an exoneration of the Arab monarchy which was home to 15 of the hijackers.

“There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” said Lehman, adding that “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

Lehman,  also slammed the commission’s former chairman and vice chairman, who advised Obama to be cautious about releasing the full congressional report, aka the infamous “28-pages,” which were prepared by a special Congress committee investigating pre-9/11 intelligence failures.

In their statement, the 9/11 commission chairman, former Republican governor Tom Kean of New Jersey, and vice-chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, described Riyadh as “an ally of the United States in combating terrorism.”

They further claimed that only one former Saudi consulate in Los Angeles was “implicated in the 9/11 plot investigation.” The diplomat, Fahad al-Thumairy, was deported from the US but was never charged with a crime.

However, in his interview on Wednesday, Lehman (pictured below) dismissed those claims as “a game of semantics,” saying the commission had identified at least five Saudi regime officials who were strongly suspected of involvement in the hijackers’ support network.  

“They may not have been indicted, but they were certainly implicated,” he noted. “There was an awful lot of circumstantial evidence.”

He noted that “the 28 pages” which Washington has kept hidden from the public reviewed much of the same material and ought to be made public as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, another member of the commissions, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of offending the other members, said the 28 pages should be released even if they damage the panel’s legacy, because they needed to take a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia’s role.

“I think we were tough on the Saudis, but obviously not tough enough,” the commissioner said. “I know some members of the staff felt we went much too easy on the Saudis. I didn’t really know the extent of it until after the report came out.”

In a tense visit to Riyadh last month, Obama discussed the 28 pages with Saudi King Salman, saying that his administration was mulling the release of some of all of the 28 pages.

US President Barack Obama (L) speaks with King Salman of Saudi Arabia (2R) at Erga Palace in Riyadh, April 20, 2016. (AFP photo)

A number of US lawmakers have called on the White House to declassify documents that shed light on Saudi Arabia’s possible complicity in the attacks that killed some 3,000 people.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off some $750 billion of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi ruling family to be held responsible in US courts for any role in the incident.

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