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S. 1471 (114th): Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act of 2015

In 2002, after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the intelligence agencies issued an 832-page report with findings for what went wrong in preventing the attacks and recommendations for ways to bolster national security. However, 28 pages were deemed classified by President George W. Bush for national security reasons, available only for members of Congress and a few select others to read. A bill sponsored by presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act, would declassify those pages and release them to the public.

While nobody who has read the 28 pages can talk publicly about it, the passage is widely believed to describe the financial support network behind the 9/11 hijackers, including information about foreign government funding -- likely from Saudi Arabia. This was all but confirmed last year when the then-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), said that the report “point[s] a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the principal financier” of the 9/11 hijackers.

An Al Jazeera article described the secretive process just to read the passage: “The 28 pages can be read by members of Congress who ask permission from leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Once authorised, the politicians are led by intelligence officers to a special sound-proof room to read the redacted chapter. An officer remains present the entire time, ensuring that no notes are taken. No specific details from the 28 pages can be divulged to the public.”

Paul has advocated his bill by saying the country owes it to the victims of that day. “The survivors, civilian heroes, and families of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, some of whom are here today, deserve the full truth,” Paul said. “We cannot let page after page of blanked-out documents be obscured behind a veil, leading these families to wonder if there is additional information surrounding these horrible acts. We owe it to these families. We cannot let this lack of transparency erode trust, and make us feel less secure.”

Paul has warned that if his bill is not passed, as a Plan B he could read the 28 pages -- which he as a member of Congress has access to -- on the floor of the Senate, thereby automatically putting the content into the Congressional Record, the publicly-available compilation of everything said on the floor by a member of Congress. Could it come to that? Currently the bill has only two other co-sponsors, and no vote has been taken since it was referred to committee in June. One of the other co-sponsors is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York, one of the locations of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Last updated Jan 30, 2016. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 1, 2015.


Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act of 2015

This bill requires the President to declassify and release to the public the previously redacted portions of the report on the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001, filed in the Senate and the House of Representatives on December 20, 2002, including all the material under the heading "Part Four--Findings, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters."

The President is not required to declassify and release to the public the names and identifying information of individuals or specific methodologies described in such report if it would result in imminent lawless action or compromise presently ongoing national security operations.