Bob Graham, a member of the federal St Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission, two-term Florida governor and 18-year US Senator, was interviewed yesterday by The Florida Current and asked to discuss what we know, and what we still don’t know, about the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.
Graham remains critical of what he terms a Washington “coverup” of involvement by foreign governments in the 9/11 attacks — including the failure of the Barack Obama administration to declassify 28 pages of the Graham committee’s report on the attacks.
Graham responded to the following questions during the interview.
What were you doing when the World Trade Center was hit?
I was with the head of Pakistan’s intelligence service. When the news came through about the first attack, there was concern, but not overly so, because there’d been a lot of examples of small airplanes running into big buildings. The assumption was that is what had happened. When we got the next message, that a 757 had hit the other tower, it was clear that it wasn’t an accident. The meeting we were having broke up; I went down to my office on the first floor of the Capitol and we were going to have our regular morning staff meeting but before we could get started, security announced the Capitol was going to be vacated.
We went out to the front lawn and stood there for a while, which was not the smartest place to be, then went to my townhouse about three blocks away from the Capitol. There was a meeting of all senators at the Capitol police headquarters (late in the day). Being chairman of the intelligence committee, I had talked to some people at the CIA and FBI. I didn’t know a lot, but I probably knew more than most people.
What came out of that?
There was a joint congressional inquiry into what had happened. There were 28 pages (of the committee report) that were totally eliminated and a substantial number of other redactions, where specific names or locations were blacked out.
Was the committee successful in making us safer?
I think it was successful in that it contributed to substantial reforms within the intelligence community, particularly with regard to issues of excessive insularity. One agency wouldn’t share information with another. Also, it left a historical record of what happened — although significant amounts of that record are still unavailable to the American public.
Were there more hijackers on other planes, which hadn’t taken off, when all flights were grounded? Were more terror events planned we may never know about?
We did not find any evidence of that and neither did the 9/11 commission.
Could it happen again?
An event of the scale of 9/11 could happen again. It won’t be commercial airlines flying into tall buildings. It’s likely to take some other form. But while we’ve made a lot of progress in enhancing the safety of the United States, I don’t think we are invulnerable to another attack.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian and your books have indicated you suspect some Saudi officials knew of, or helped finance, terrorism. Has anything in the past 11 years changed your mind about that?
I don’t think it’s speculation, it’s a fact that the Saudis were significantly involved in assisting the 19 hijackers, including financial assistance. There’s a series of events that occurred in Sarasota. There were significant ties between people doing their flight training in Sarasota and people of a Saudi background who lived there, and who left Sarasota to return to Saudi Arabia less than two weeks before 9/11 — which raises suspicion that maybe somebody tipped them off.
What still needs to be done to make us safer?
The president should reopen the investigation to answer the remaining questions. What was the extent of foreign involvement, specifically Saudi, specifically support and funding? No. 2, why did the foreign countries who appear to have participated in such assistance do so? Third, why has the United States gone to such lengths to cover it up?
You’re saying the Bush Administration covered up Saudi involvement?
Yes and, to be bipartisan, I think the Obama Administration has basically continued that practice. The 28 pages were classified under Bush, but after three and a half years in office — and there were some representations during the (2008) campaign that these materials would be declassified — nothing has happened.
Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer
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