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September 11 attacks

Smoke pours from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo: Craig Allen/Getty Images)

9/11 Families to Biden: No Detente With Saudis Without Accountability for 2001 Attacks

The president was reportedly considering a trip to Saudi Arabia to appeal for more oil production as the DOJ announced it would miss a deadline for releasing declassified documents about the 9/11 attacks.

Julia Conley

The chair of a coalition representing 3,000 families who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001 is calling on President Joe Biden to demand accountability from Saudi officials for the attacks should the president appeal to the kingdom regarding oil production.

White House advisers are reportedly considering arranregaging a trip to Saudi Arabia where the president would talk with officials about ramping up output to help ease prices that have risen following Russia's attack on Ukraine.

"To omit September 11 from your discussions is to signal to the world that you are willing to indulge years more of Saudi obfuscation and obstruction."

If Biden does go to Riyadh, wrote Terry Strada, whose husband was killed at the World Trade Center, he must "include accountability for 9/11 in any conversations" he has with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman or other members of the royal family.

"The commitments you have made to us require no less," Strada, who leads 9/11 Families United, wrote in a letter to Biden on Thursday.

After promising to make Saudi Arabia a global "pariah" during his presidential campaign over the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi and under pressure from 9/11 families, Biden announced last September an order demanding that the FBI release declassified documents regarding the attacks.

The 700 documents—including more than 2,700 pages—that the FBI has released so far in accordance with the executive action confirmed "that core elements of the Saudi government, including the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, were deeply intertwined with al Qaeda in the decade leading up to the September 11, 2001 attacks, and provided al Qaeda with crucial support that enabled them to plan and carry out their mission," Strada wrote.

The 9/11 Commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia funded al Qaeda, but did not conclude whether individual government officials may have provided support to the group led by Osama bin Laden.

The documents released since September showed at least two of the attackers received support from a Saudi diplomat and a government employee.

"Now, having seen this new evidence, we can say that it only confirms our long-held beliefs regarding Saudi Arabia's deep involvement in the murders of our loved ones," Strada said.

The kingdom has continued to deny any involvement in supporting the attackers, the majority of whom were Saudi nationals.

"To omit September 11 from your discussions is to signal to the world that you are willing to indulge years more of Saudi obfuscation and obstruction," Strada told the president. "Any dialogue must include our years-long quest for justice and accountability."

Strada's letter came as the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would miss the six-month deadline set by the president in September for releasing the documents. In a legal filing the department said Thursday it would release most of the documents by mid-March but some would not be made available until mid-April.

"The failure to hold the kingdom to account for aiding and abetting al Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers is the original sin in the U.S.-Saudi relationship and the source of the American people's hostility to that nation," wrote Strada. "No reset of our nation's relationship with Saudi Arabia can be successful without proper reconciliation for the attacks on September 11, 2001."


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