When a convicted terrorist and conspicuous former Al Qaeda operative makes disturbing allegations, it is hard not to question his credibility. Zacarias Moussaoui conspired to kill citizens of the United States and will rightly spend the rest of his life in prison. Whatever the motivations for Moussaoui’s recent accusations of complicity by foreign agents in the 9/11 attacks, his testimony brings to light important questions. Most notable is the fact that as a nation, we have not fully accounted for the sources of funding and logistical support that enabled Al Qaeda to undertake the terrorist attacks.
In answering those questions it is important to remember that in the aftermath of the attacks Congress undertook a bipartisan “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001.” This inquiry, by the Senate Select and House Select Intelligence committees, was conducted to investigate the planning and execution of the attacks and to identify any gaps in our intelligence and counterterrorism efforts that may have contributed to our failure to protect the American people.
To the credit of former Senator Bob Graham, who oversaw the inquiry, the investigation was both relentless and judicious in compiling and dissecting the myriad complex relationships that supported Al Qaeda in the run up to 9/11. Importantly, its findings noted, “The activities of the September 11 hijackers in the United States appear to have been financed, in large part, from monies sent to them from abroad” and that “there was also reluctance in some parts of the US government to track terrorist funding and shut down their financial support networks.” The report then identified specific entities, individuals, and detailed transactions in support of those findings. However, just as the findings were to be released, President George W. Bush used his executive authority to excise 28 pages from the report, declaring them classified and refusing to allow them to be published. Unfortunately, almost 14 years after the attacks, those 28 pages remain classified and withheld from the public.
I am in agreement with Graham, Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina, and members of both parties who, like me, have read the 28 pages, and believe that disclosure will not jeopardize sources or methods used in gathering this information and that declassifying the findings is appropriate for a number of reasons.
First, as Thomas Jefferson said, “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a Republic [and] self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.” In other words, there can be no accountability without transparency.
Second, I have met with spouses, children, siblings, and parents of 9/11 victims as well as representatives of 9/11 Families United For Justice Against Terrorism. They have provided powerful and heart-rending testimony of how important it is to seek the truth and bring to account all those who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Third, at a time when the world continues to face challenges from expanding terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and Islamic Jihad, Jabhat al Nusra, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab as well as Al Qaeda and its affiliates, we must be mindful of the need to bring their financiers and supporters to justice as well.
At an even more basic level, our commitment to one another as citizens in a society that values freedom and justice demands that we hold accountable those who aided and abetted the savage attacks on our homeland and the murder of thousands of innocent Americans. When that fundamental duty to protect American citizens has been breached, it is not enough to say that we will “never forget.” The military and civilian personnel at the Pentagon, the first responders and office workers in New York, the passengers and crew of those hijacked planes, and all those families whose hearts still ache — we owe it to them.
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch represents the Eighth Congressional District of Massachusetts.