Hillary Clinton appears to have softened her position over the years on whether 28 pages from the 9/11 Commission report which reportedly show Saudi ties to the 9/11 hijackers should be declassified.
As a New York senator during the Bush administration, Clinton signed a letter in 2003 demanding that the 28 pages be declassified. But on Monday, the Democratic presidential candidate offered a more nuanced view.
“I think the administration should take a hard look at them and determine whether that should be done consistent with national security,” Clinton said at a campaign stop in Queens when asked whether the documents should be downgraded from their classified status.
She was joined there by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who has led the push to declassify the documents, which are contained in the 838-page 9/11 Commission report and reportedly show links between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 hijackers.
Schumer, Clinton and 42 other Democrats signed an Aug. 1, 2003 letter directly asking then-President George W. Bush to declassify the documents.
“We write to respectfully request that the Bush administration declassify a key 28-page section of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001,” reads the letter, which was also signed by one Republican (then-Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback) and one Independent (then-Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords).
“The decision to classify this information sends the wrong message to the American people about our nation’s anti-terror effort and makes it seem as if there will be no penalty for foreign abettors of the hijackers,” the letter continued.
“Protecting the Saudi regime by eliminating any public penalty for the support given to terrorists from within its borders would be a mistake.”
A lot has changed for Clinton in the 13 years since she signed the letter. For one, she has served as President Obama’s secretary of state. Obama has resisted calls to declassify the documents, and Clinton has resisted opposing him publicly on a variety of issues. The Saudi government, which opposes declassifying the documents, are also one of the Clinton Foundation’s biggest benefactors. The regime has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the charity.
Besides offering a cagey response on whether the Obama administration should declassify the documents, Clinton also refused Monday to say whether she has read them. It’s unclear why she was so hesitant to say if she had — other former members of Congress have acknowledged reading them. And many, such as former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, have said that they should be declassified.
Clinton did come out Sunday in support of a Schumer-backed bill that will allow 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government. The Obama administration opposes the measure, saying that it could put Americans at legal risk overseas.
The Saudi government has also told the administration that it will sell off $750 billion in U.S. treasuries if the law is passed. Clinton was asked about the bill on Sunday but said that she was not familiar with it. After receiving some criticism, her campaign issued a statement in support of the measure.
Earlier in the day on Monday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic challenger, said he has not read the 28 classified pages from the 9/11 report. But he did say that he believes the Obama administration should declassify them.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.