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The sun rises above One World Trade Center and lower Manhattan in New York City on Sept. 3, 2021. Photo: Gary Hershorn via Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Friday directing the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to pursue a declassification review of documents related to the FBI's investigations of the 9/11 attacks.

Why it matters: Victims' families have told the president they will object to his presence at next week's 20th-anniversary memorial events unless he declassifies documents that they believe will show the Saudi Arabian government supported the attacks.

Driving the news: Biden's order requires Attorney General Merrick Garland to publicly release the declassified documents over the next six months.

  • Even if some information might merit continued protection in the interest of national security, agencies should consider "whether the public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure," per the order.

What he's saying: "We must never forget the enduring pain of the families and loved ones of the 2,977 innocent people who were killed during the worst terrorist attack on America in our history," Biden, who campaigned on a promise to declassify 9/11 documents, said in a 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."

Go deeper

Tampa Bay’s mysterious 9/11 link could be made public

Small airplanes sit on the tarmac at the Venice Municipal Airport, where three 9/11 terrorists took lessons. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Biden’s order to the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies to declassify documents related to 9/11 could help solve a mystery about a Saudi family who fled a gated community in Sarasota County just before the attacks.

What’s new: The FBI’s review was due Sept. 11, and additional documents, including reports with investigative findings, are to be reviewed over the next six months with an eye for disclosure, AP reports.

  • "Information shall not remain classified if there is significant doubt about the need to maintain its classified status," the order reads.
  • Those reports could shed light on what was happening behind the gates of a Sarasota community called Prestancia in the months before the attacks.
Updated Sep 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden attends wreath-laying ceremony at Pentagon

President Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial on Sept. 11 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

President Biden participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon on Saturday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The latest: Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived at the Pentagon after visiting the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and Ground Zero in New York City.

Updated Sep 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Harris, Bush preach unity at Flight 93 memorial, 20 years on from attacks

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a 9/11 commemoration at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris joined former President George W. Bush at a ceremony on Saturday to honor the lives lost 20 years ago on United Airlines Flight 93.

Driving the news: The vice president and the 43rd president devoted much of their remarks to remembering the unity that brought Americans together after the 9/11 attacks.

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