9/11 Commission Chair: U.S. Should Declassify More Documents

Image Courtesy of Observer

By Nicholas Barry

President Joseph Biden’s decision last month to declassify more 9/11-related investigative documents was the right one, according to former New Jersey Governor and chair of the 9/11 Commission Thomas Kean, during a discussion with the Catholic University Intelligence Club and College Republicans on Thursday, September 30.

“I’ll say one of the open scandals I think in this democracy is that we over classify,” Kean stated to the students who attended the event. “There were documents that I saw, deeply classified, that the American people have every right to. There was nothing in those documents that would compromise United States security, or sources, or anything else. Somebody just put the classified stamp on them. I’d say of all the documents I saw in the two years or whatever of our work, at a minimum 60 percent of them should have been public.”

The 9/11 Commission, also known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, was an independent, bipartisan commission created in 2002. The Commission prepared a report originally published in July 2004 on the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks and offered recommendations on how the U.S. could guard against future attacks.

Joseph Stillwell, the event’s moderator and Chairman of the College Republicans, asked Kean whether there ever will be a full accounting of Saudi Arabia’s alleged role in organizing the 9/11 attacks. This theory has been considered for more than 20 years because 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the terrorist attacks against the U.S. were from Saudi Arabia.

“I’ve seen the documents that are being released,” Kean said, referring to the ones the Biden administration is now weighing whether to declassify.  “There’s nothing definitive there.”

Former Governor Kean’s career includes service as an elected member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1968 to 1978, and for a part of that time, he was the Assembly Speaker. Kean was elected the 48th Governor of New Jersey in 1981 and served in that position between 1982 and 1990.  In addition, Kean was the 10th President of Drew University from 1990 to 2005 and chairman of the 9/11 Commission from 2002 to 2004. Kean is presently 86 years old and currently resides in Bedminster New Jersey.

Dr. Alvin Felzenberg, who joined Kean on last week’s Zoom call, was the spokesman for the 9/11 Commission and wrote a biography about the former governor called, Governor Tom Kean: From the New Jersey Statehouse to the 9-11 Commission.  

Kean acknowledged he was not former President George W. Bush’s administration’s first choice for the chairmanship of the 9/11 Commission. They favored Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, but he eventually declined the offer.

“I never expected to get the call and when I did get the call I felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me,” Kean continued. “It was one of the greatest events ever to happen to the people in this country. When you have something like this you can’t say no. I can’t  say no when my President asks me to do it, so I said yes.” 

“I was quite honored and I still go back and say it was the honor of my life to work with Tom Kean both in New Jersey. All the things I had a ringside seat to, some great history with that, and then to be called back 20 years later, very unusual but it was the honor of my life to do it,” Felzenberg said. 

“The event last week with Governor Kean and Dr. Felzenberg showed why we needed the 9/11 Commission to ensure our country would have policies in place to help make it safer,” Stillwell said. “There could have been new bits of information discussed during the event that were in the shadows previously. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing both of these men who have changed the Garden State and our nation for the better.”

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