Does the administration trust the American people?
Bin Laden’s death, five years ago, reiterates the need to pass JASTA and release the missing 28 pages. However, it appears the current administration does not trust the American people to support these two things without delay. In fact, recent waves of public support for the respective passage and release have led to stunning public reversals by the administration and the government of Saudi Arabia.
JASTA, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, is designed to allow families and victims of terrorist attacks against US citizens, carried out within our borders, the right to seek redress in US courts against those foreign governments that are involved in the planning, funding, and/or coordination of said terrorist attacks. The purpose of JASTA, as this nation moves forward in a time of increased risk and daily threats of violence against its people, is to give those nations pause and notice they will be held accountable if they fund those whose intent is to harm us. While there is a financial component to JASTA, the largest component is accountability of state actors in the funding of murderous activities of state and non-state actors, i.e. the terrorists.
There is a current hold on JASTA in the United States Senate which may be lifted in the near future. JASTA has, in past sessions of Congress, passed the Senate without objection. Indications are that previous objections to the bill, in the House of Representatives, have been rectified. However, the administration is leaning hard on the Senate to continue holds on JASTA and prevent it from ever going to a full vote in the Congress.
The impetus for the JASTA bill comes from foreign government funding of terrorist attacks, as we have seen in the past with nations such as Iran and Libya. That alone is enough to justify JASTA. However, JASTA has seen a renewed push due to the concurrent publicity surrounding what has come to be known as the “missing 28 pages.”
The missing 28 pages are part of the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. The Joint Inquiry was finished with its work almost a year before the famous 9/11 Commission was constituted.
The 28 pages remain off limits to the general public and are part of a section of the Joint Inquiry that deals with “specific potential sources of foreign support for the September 11 hijackers.” It is commonly believed, based on testimony and comments from numerous Members of Congress that have read the pages, that the 28 pages suggest that key Saudi Arabian government officials provided financial and/or logistical support for at least some of the September 11 hijackers.
A crescendo of public support has arisen for releasing the 28 pages, and to pass JASTA, has caused ripples and reversals at the White House and in Saudi Arabia.
The White House initially raised no public objections to JASTA when it passed the Senate previously. However, rumors have abounded on Capitol Hill that at the same time JASTA previously passed the Senate, the administration, via the State Department, quietly put pressure on the Republican led House not to pass JASTA.
It appears that concerns of House members regarding JASTA have been rectified and now the White House is publicly opposed to passing JASTA. President Obama has stated he would veto the bill if presented on his desk. Why?
This is not the only turn of events since public support has skyrocketed for releasing the pages and passing JASTA. The Saudi threat to release 750 million dollars of U.S holdings is a startling twist for a government that has, until recently, been vocal about asking the U.S. government to release the missing 28 pages. This reversal of policy may be a key indicator that there are very real issues within the 28 pages that point to potential Saudi logistical support for the September 11 attacks.
Saudi Arabia likely will not sell off 750 million dollars of U.S. holdings. Second, if the Saudi Arabian government follows through on this threat, it will hurt Saudi Arabia much more than us.
If the Saudis want to sell, let them sell. If there is nothing in those pages, then they will have no reason to worry. If there is questionable but untrue material in the pages, as CIA Director Brennan has said, the Saudis and/or the administration can explain it away as innocent guilt by association which does in fact happen. Americans in the future will be safer from government sponsored acts of terror within our borders if JASTA becomes law. If there is true and damaging material in the pages, the named Saudis need to be held accountable. The American people are a balanced people and can be trusted with the truth, whatever it is.
President Obama recently said that he hopes that the 28 pages would be released, despite previously acknowledging that not only does he have the authority to release such documentation but also personally promising 9/11 family members, such as Bill Doyle, that he would release those documents.
Government has a right to secrecy, especially in wartime. That being said, the American people already have a strong indication of what is in those pages. There may be truth in the pages and there may not be. But the fact is a people needs to trust its government. The longer the 28 pages remain classified, and JASTA lingers, the more cynical people will get not only towards the United States, but what the United States calls an ally. It will also damage the credibility of the administration regarding terrorism in an election year.
Passing JASTA, and releasing what has already been promised to have been released in the missing 28 pages, not only would keep the issue of Islamic terrorism from becoming unnecessary politicized, but would make a demonstrable and public commitment on the part of this administration that it trusts the American people as it asks the people to trust them.
At home and abroad, the war continues.