The Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Center are seen as the Tribute in Light shines in downtown Manhattan to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York City, New York, US, on September 11, 2020. (Via Reuters)
US President Joe Biden has expressed full support for a "fresh review" of 9/11-related documents after the victimsí families asked him to skip memorials unless he declassified documents that show Saudi Arabiaís leaders supported the terrorist attacks.
"My administration is committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law," Biden said in a statement.
"I welcome the Department of Justiceís filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible," he added.
Survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and family members of victims have called on Biden to skip memorial services marking the 20th anniversary of the tragic events.
They called for the US president to release previously classified files relevant to the Sept. 11 attacks as they said there could be information implicating Saudi Arabia in the attack.
A statement, signed by over 1,800 people, read, "We understand President Bidenís desire to mark the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary at Ground Zero; however, we cannot in good faith - and with veneration to those lost, sick and injured - welcome the president to our hallowed grounds until he fulfills his commitment,"
US Prosecutors said the FBI decided to review earlier assertions it had made about documents being privileged "to identify additional information appropriate for disclosure" and added that it "will disclose such information on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible."
The FBI had made claims about why it could not release some information requested by Sept. 11 victimsí families.
James Kreindler, a lawyer for some families, said he and his clients hoped the FBI and Justice Department moves indicated "we will be getting documents" which include reports on the investigation of the attacks as well as documents related to Operation Encore, a review by the FBI of its Sept. 11 probe conducted in 2016.
Families of victims and their lawyers have complained for years that US agencies were covering up documents describing Saudi Arabian links to the terrorist attacks and those who carried them out.
"We appreciate President Biden acknowledging our families today as we pursue justice and accountability against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Brett Eagleson, whose father Bruce Eagleson was killed said. "Unfortunately, however, we have heard many empty promises before."
Eaglesonís statement said the Justice Department "can act immediately to produce the documents including the unredacted 2016 FBI Review Report of the bureauís years-long investigation of Saudi government agents who íare known to have provided substantial assistance toí the hijackers, as well as phone records and witness statements."
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the 2001 terrorist attack were from Saudi Arabia.
A group of influential US senators said last week they supported legislation that would force the Justice Department, the CIA and Director of National Intelligence to declassify additional information about the 9/11 attacks.
"If the United States government is sitting on any documents that may implicate Saudi Arabia in the events of 9/11, these families and the American people have a right to know," said Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.