Bob Graham, the two-term Florida governor and three-term U.S. senator who co-chaired Congress’ joint inquiry into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, on Wednesday addressed recent developments related to the investigation and also explained why he believes that 9/11 is not ready to be consigned to the history books.
Speaking as part of a panel discussion at Palm Beach Atlantic University on “28 Pages and the Unanswered Questions of 9/11,” Graham expressed support for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, the law that will allow the families of the more than 3,000 victims of the 2001 attacks to proceed with lawsuits against the government of Saudi Arabia.
“Not only is it going to be possible for families to get justice, but I think through the litigation process there’s going to be a lot of learning for the American people,” he said.
It also will send “a message to Saudi Arabia that the United States is not passive in that we are going to demand an accounting for its involvement with 9/11.”
Graham said the government’s withholding of information about 9/11 for the past 15 years has contributed to a feeling of cynicism and skepticism in America that became apparent during the recent election.
With the incoming presidential administration, “I’m pleased somebody with fresh eyes who has not had any connection with this issue up to now is going to be making the decisions” about the investigation, he said.
Joining Graham on the panel were First Amendment lawyer Tom Julin of the Gunster law firm and investigative journalist Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog. Christensen’s reporting and Julin’s legal work are credited with bringing about the declassification in July of 28 pages from the congressional joint inquiry report on the attacks.
The 28 pages appear to contain evidence connecting the 9/11 hijackers with supporters in the U.S. who had ties to the Saudi government.
The pages are only a few of an untold number of documents to which the team hopes to gain access. Julin said two lawsuits were filed against the FBI and the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to compel the release of thousands of pages of documents.
The documents are believed to include the results of an FBI investigation into a Saudi family who suddenly departed from Sarasota, Florida, shortly before Sept. 11, 2001, he said. Many people now consider the family to be a link between the Saudi royal family and the hijackers, he said.
“It’s a story that has been hidden for many years,” Julin said.
The FBI has been ordered to produce all of the documents in its Sarasota field office on the 9/11 investigation, some 80,000 pages, to be reviewed by a federal judge for possible release, Christensen said.
“All we have ever asked the FBI is to just tell us what is going on here,” Christensen said. “They will not do that.”
The discussion, which took place in the Lassiter Rotunda of the Warren Library, was moderated by former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and hosted by the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at PBA.
Prior to the event, the panelists met with a group of PBA students as part of the President’s Lyceum. During his introduction of Graham, LeMieux noted that Graham is one of only three Floridians to serve both as the state’s governor and as its senator.
Graham urged the students to become engaged in public discourse. “Democracy was never meant to be a spectator sport,” he said.
“There is a tendency for people as they grow in age, stature and responsibility to become more insular. I would strongly urge you to resist that” and instead “look for ways you can broaden your human experience.”