On September 3, President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring never-before-seen documents related to September 11, 2021, to be declassified. Some documents had a deadline of being declassified by today, with others having deadlines that extend up to 180 days from the date the order was signed.
Certain Documents Needed Declassification By September 11, 2021
In his executive order, Biden noted that Americans deserved a “fuller picture” of what happened on September 11. The order noted:
Many Americans continue to seek full accountability for the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), including 9/11 survivors and victims’ family members. As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the American people deserve to have a fuller picture of what their Government knows about those attacks. Although the indiscriminate release of classified information could jeopardize the national security — including the United States Government’s efforts to protect against future acts of terrorism — information should not remain classified when the public interest in disclosure outweighs any damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure. The significant events in question occurred two decades ago or longer, and they concern a tragic moment that continues to resonate in American history and in the lives of so many Americans. It is therefore critical to ensure that the United States Government maximizes transparency, relying on classification only when narrowly tailored and necessary. Thus, information collected and generated in the United States Government’s investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks should now be disclosed, except when the strongest possible reasons counsel otherwise.
Declassification reviews for some documents were required no later than September 11, 2021. These included:
(T)he Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) electronic communication dated April 4, 2016, from the subfile investigation described in chapter V of the 2015 Report of the Congressionally-directed 9/11 Review Commission to the Director of the FBI (subfile investigation), which was identified but withheld in full during discovery in In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, MDL No. 03-1570 (S.D.N.Y.)…
Other Documents Had a Deadline of 60 to 180 Days from September 3
Other documents were given a longer deadline. The order noted that the following had to be disclosed within 60 days of the September 3 executive order: “all other records that previously were withheld as classified, in full or in part, during discovery in In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001” and “the 2021 FBI electronic communication closing the subfile investigation.”
The order also gave 120 days to declassify the following:
(A)ll interview reports, analytical documents, documents reporting investigative findings, or other substantive records (including phone records and banking records, if any) from the FBI’s initial investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — known as the Pentagon/Twin Towers Bombings (PENTTBOM) investigation — that reference the individual subjects of the subfile investigation and may be found through search terms, keyword identifiers, and other diligent means…
And finally, within 180 days, the following needed to be declassified:
(A)ll records from any separate FBI investigation other than the PENTTBOM investigation or the subfile investigation of any individual subjects of the subfile investigation that are relevant to the 9/11 terrorist attacks or to any of the individual subjects’ connection to an agency relationship with a foreign government…
The order noted that:
Information may remain classified only if it still requires protection in the interest of the national security and disclosure of the information reasonably could be expected to result in damage to the national security. Information shall not remain classified if there is significant doubt about the need to maintain its classified status. Nor shall information remain classified in order to conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error or to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency…
Even when information requires continued protection in the interest of the national security, the Attorney General or the head of any other agency that originated the information, as the case may be, should determine, as an exercise of discretion, whether the public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.
CNBC reported that families of victims and first responders who think there may be a link between some Saudi Arabian leaders and the attack have been urging Biden to look more into the documents. About 1,800 people issued a statement opposing any participation by Biden in memorial events unless more documents are released. The 9/11 Commission report did not find any evidence connecting Saudi leaders, but did say that some Saudi nationals had helped fund Al Quaeda, which Saudi Arabia denied, CNBC reported.