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Former 9/11 commissioner sides with Bob Graham on declassifying congressional report

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Although intelligence officials dismiss it as ground already covered, the former chairman of the 9/11 Commission Report backs former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham’s call to declassify 28 pages from an earlier report on the terrorist attacks.

“The public and the press can’t make good judgments until they have everything, “says former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean. “And that would be declassifying not only the 28 pages of Bob’s report, but the classified areas of our (9/11) report, so that you have everything together and then you can make your own conclusions.”

Graham was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on intelligence when 9/11 happened, and co-chairman of the 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the attacks. But a part of that review has been shielded from the public, allegedly because it implicates citizens from U.S. ally Saudi Arabia in helping the hijackers – 15 of 19 of whom came from that Middle East nation. Graham is on record as saying there is evidence of support from the Saudi government for the terrorists.

In late 2002, Congress and President George W. Bush then authorized an independent, bipartisan report to be made of the terrorist attacks. That commission was chaired by Kean and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton. They produced their report in 2004.

Kean told Florida Politics last Friday that he fully supports Graham’s call for the declassification of pages from the congressional report, but says his own 9/11 report has redactions as well that need to be declassified.

“We hired the people (Graham committee) they had used to write those 28 pages, and we sent them back into the field to fill in the missing gaps and answer the questions that were raised by the congressional report. They not only went back to California where the investigators had been to begin with, and then we sent them on to Saudi Arabia to interview people who weren’t in California, and so we filled in the gaps; some of that is classified, too, and the whole business should be declassified. The American people have a right to see it. But not one without the other.”

The 9/11 Commission ultimately didn’t draw any conclusions about Saudi Arabia involvement.

“We said ‘here are the facts that we have been able to determine.’”

In a July 2011 article for The Daily Beast, Graham alleged that two Saudi hijackers received backing and support from a Saudi “agent” in 2000 after entering the States. This agent provided the would-be terrorists with flight lessons, helped secure an apartment, and introduced them to a circle of mostly Saudi friends.

Kean also weighed in on the controversy involving anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, the organizer of the  Garland, Texas, “Draw Muhammad” contest that led to the deaths of two gunmen last month.

“I think we should be able to say almost anything as far as free speech goes,” he says. “Although we condemn if somebody were to …use the N-word. That’s probably not going to put them in jail, but it’s something that very badly offends an important group of Americans, and therefore it ought to be condemned.

“I think if you do cartoons of the Prophet when you know it’s something that deeply offends Muslims, that should be condemned, though we can’t say you can’t do it.

” I think if you do things that offend the image of Christ, which you know is going to offend Christians, again, I think you can do it in this country but you shouldn’t do it, because it’s deeply offensive to your fellow citizens.

” I think that’s how you’ve got to treat it in this country. You’ve got to treat it as something you put a lot of public pressure on  — you shouldn’t be deeply offending the people you live next door to.”

Several conservative commentators noted last week that when Christians were offended by public works of art like “Piss Christ,” the Andres Serrano 1989 work that depicts a red and yellow photograph of a crucifix plunged into a vat of Serrano’s urine. The work ignited a furious reaction at the time because it was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

“That’s a little different issue,” Kean interjects. “Because you complain about the art, period, because it was deeply offensive to Christians, but the issue on top of that was the federal government paid for some of that. That was an NEA grant, so that’s a little different, whether or not the taxpayers’ money should be used for something that’s going to be deeply offensive to somebody is, I think you can argue that with much more rationality than you can argue that it ought to be banned.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean gives the commencement speech at Eckerd College on Sunday, May 17.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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