Biden tells FBI to release files on 9/11 investigation and possible Saudi links

Joe Biden has ordered the release of FBI files on the investigation into the 9/11 attack as victims' families demand answers on links to Saudi Arabia.

The executive order comes just a week before the 20th anniversary of the worst terror attack in US history, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

And it comes after intense pressure from Congress and victims’ families currently suing Saudi Arabia.

The order, issued on Friday, said: “As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the American people deserve to have a fuller picture of what their government knows about those attacks.”

Tthe US Justice Department and other executive branch agencies will launch a declassification review, and declassified documents will be released over the next six months.

The order said the full record would be released over the coming months “except when the strongest possible reasons counsel otherwise”.

Biden said in a statement: "When I ran for president, I made a commitment to ensuring transparency regarding the declassification of documents on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America.

"As we approach the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, I am honoring that commitment."

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Heartbroken relatives of victims have long demanded the US release the findings of Operation Encore, an FBI investigation into possible Saudi complicity.

Terry Strada, whose husband Tom died in the attack on the World Trade Centre, and who is the co-chair of 9/11 Community United, told The Guardian: “I’m very excited. I’m thrilled that we have an executive order now that will mandate a full declassification review of all of the documents.”

“The onus is now on the intelligence agencies to explain why they’re going to classify a document. The way that they’ve been doing it until now is under cover of darkness. They won’t be able to do that any longer.”

Family members of victims of the Sept 11 attacks earlier asked a US government watchdog to investigate their suspicions that the FBI lied about or destroyed evidence linking Saudi Arabia to the hijackers.

The request in a letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said "circumstances make it likely that one or more FBI officials committed willful misconduct with intent to destroy or secrete evidence to avoid its disclosure".

Saudi Arabia has said it had no role in the hijacked plane attacks.

Relatives of the victims have been pushing for years for more information about what the FBI discovered in its probe.

Last month, many families asked Biden to skip 20-year memorial events unless he declassified documents they contend will show Saudi Arabian leaders supported the attacks.

The Justice Department said in a court filing that it had decided to review earlier claims of privilege it had made about why it could not release some information requested by families

Biden added in his statement: "My heart continues to be with the 9/11 families who are suffering, and my Administration will continue to engage respectfully with members of this community.

"I welcome their voices and insight as we chart a way forward."

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