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Sixteen Years After 9/11, the American Public Deserves Answers, Not Secrecy

Sixteen years is a long time to expect the American public to wait to know who was behind 9/11, the most significant act of terror in modern U.S. history. Unfortunately, the wait continues because of the resistance of federal agencies to openness, the over-classification of information and the weakness of the Freedom of Information Act.

Vast numbers of investigative and intelligence documents related to 9/11 remain classified. The FBI alone has acknowledged it has tens of thousands of pages of 9/11 reports that it refuses to make public. To make matters worse, agencies withholding information tell what are essentially lies to make their actions seem as acceptable as possible.

For example, the FBI repeatedly has said its investigation of a Saudi family who moved abruptly out of their Sarasota home two weeks before 9/11 — leaving behind their cars, clothes, furniture and other belongings — found no connections to the attacks. Yet statements in the FBI's own files that were never disclosed to Congress or the 9/11 Commission say the opposite — that the Sarasota Saudis had "many connections" to "individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001."

Trust in government today is near historic lows. Recent polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center found that only 20 percent of Americans trust Washington to do what's right. When the people think government isn't listening to them, or giving them the respect of knowing what it is doing, it feeds into that undercurrent and denies the public the opportunity to be part of the discussion about what we should be doing.

Last summer's release of the long-hidden "28 pages" from Congress' Joint Inquiry into 9/11 and FBI records obtained by Florida Bulldog (read more at http://www.floridabulldog.org/)amid ongoing FOIA litigation indicate that much about Saudi Arabia's role in supporting the 9/11 hijackers remains classified. If the public knew the role the kingdom played in 9/11, would the United States be selling them $350 billion in sophisticated military equipment?

The Freedom of Information Act is intended to be how classified materials are unearthed. But as it is currently written and has been generally interpreted by the courts, most recently by Miami federal Judge Cecilia Altonaga in Florida Bulldog's lawsuit against the FBI, the frequently trivial concerns of agencies trump the fundamental democratic principle that Americans deserve to know what their government is doing in their name.

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