Accusations of 9/11 government cover-up trouble U.S.-Saudi relations

A recent 60 Minutes expose entitled “28 Pages” is making waves, reigniting accusations that the Bush administration covered up ties between the 9/11 hijackers and high-ranking Saudi officials to protect the U.S.’s delicate relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The title of the piece refers to the 838-page joint congressional investigative report that was commissioned in the days following the attacks – 28 pages of which were “sealed” by the Bush administration for “security purposes” and have yet to be made public. The pages are locked in an underground vault in the Capitol.

Several top ranking U.S. officials who have seen the pages have come forward and stated the missing pages imply Saudi officials may have had a role in funding and orchestrating the attacks.

To complicate matters further, family members of 9/11 victims are currently attempting to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks. The recently-introduced Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (or JASTA) is a bill that would allow “Saudi Arabia to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,” according to the New York Times.

The Obama's meet with Saudi leaders, via Wikimedia Commons

The Obama’s meet with Saudi leaders, via Wikimedia Commons

bipartisan effort has been made to stymie the lawsuit – with President Obama denouncing the bill and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan saying he would not support it. The White House says that if the bill becomes law, it would invite similar legislation from other countries, and their legislation may not be so narrowly tailored to one country and one attack.

That hasn’t stopped the lawsuit and media accusations from causing a real conflict between the U.S. and its long-time ally in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia recently threatened to sell off billions of dollars of U.S. assets if Congress allowed the bill to go through.

President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia and met with King Salman on Wednesday amidst rising tensions between the two countries.

The Kingdom has been an important ally to the U.S. for decades, but many Saudis reportedly view America quite ambivalently, as both a political entity and an oppressive presence in the Middle East. The fact that Osama bin Laden, the well-known architect of the attacks, was the son of a wealthy and well-connected Saudi family has been seen by many to point to the fact that high-ranking Saudis played an active role in orchestrating 9/11.

While the 9/11 attacks have been the subject of conspiracy theories for many years, these recent reports seem to indicate that if there’s no fire clearly visible yet, there’s certainly a lot of smoke.


Lucas Ropek is a journalist based in Massachusetts. He worked for the Working Families Party in NYC on issues of income inequality and worker rights. His interests include U.S. foreign policy, pop-culture, and freedom fries.

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