WASHINGTON - A leading Republican senator on Sunday called on the Bush administration to release most of the classified portions of a congressional report on the Sept. 11 attacks, saying the sections were withheld only to avoid harming relations with other countries.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who helped spearhead last year's probe into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said the administration wrongly blanked out 27 pages dealing with suspected foreign support of those responsible for the attacks.
Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), (L) and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) appear on NBC's 'Meet the Press' July 27, 2003 in Washington. Shelby called on the Bush administration to release most of the classified portions of a congressional report on the Sept. 11 attacks, saying the sections were withheld only to avoid harming relations with other countries. Photo by Alex Wong/Meet The Press via Reuters
"I think they're classified for the wrong reason," Shelby said on NBC's Meet the Press program. "My judgment is 95 percent of that information should be declassified, become uncensored, so the American people would know."
Shelby said the section was classified because it "might be embarrassing to some international relations."
Shelby had said last week that he felt too much of the report was classified, but had not been as critical of the censorship as Democrats who said the Bush administration had "an obsession with secrecy."
Although congressional members have refused to name the suspected country, uncensored portions of the report appeared to point at Saudi Arabia.
"When the Saudis are not helping us fight the war on terrorism, when they're directly or indirectly financing that war on terrorism, we have to hold them accountable," Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said on CNN's Late Edition.
A Saudi official last week dismissed any implications in the report of a Riyadh role in the Sept. 11 attacks as motivated by political aspirations of Democrats in the next election.
The 900-page report released last week said intelligence agencies missed opportunities to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot in the months before the hijacked plane attacks.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, defended the exclusion of portions of the report, saying it could hinder current congressional investigations on the attacks. Goss said on NBC's Meet The Press he expected the pages to be made public after the conclusion of the investigations.
Sen. Bob Graham, who was involved in compiling the report, said that a foreign government which he could not name for legal reasons "provided logistical assistance to at least two of the hijackers."
"High officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of September 11," Graham, a Florida Democrat and a contender for president, said on the Fox News Sunday program.
The U.S. report raised suspicions but reached no definite conclusion about whether Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi who knew two of the Sept. 11 hijackers while living in San Diego, was connected to the Saudi government.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd