Joe Biden to declassify documents about 9/11

US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order directing the declassification of documents related to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug 18, 2021, on the COVID-19 response and vaccination program. U.S. health officials Wednesday announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines' effectiveness is falling. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug 18, 2021, on the COVID-19 response and vaccination program. U.S. health officials Wednesday announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines' effectiveness is falling. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The move is seen as a supportive gesture to victims’ families who have long sought the records in hopes of implicating the Saudi government.

The order, coming little more than a week before the 20th anniversary of the attacks, is a significant moment in a years-long tussle between the government and the families over what classified information about the run-up to the attacks could be made public.

That conflict was on display last month when some 1,800 relatives, survivors and first responders opposed Mr Biden’s participation in 9/11 events if the documents remained declassified.

“The significant events in question occurred two decades ago or longer, and they concern a tragic moment that continues to resonate in American history and in the lives of so many Americans,” the executive order states.

“It is therefore critical to ensure that the United States Government maximizes transparency, relying on classification only when narrowly tailored and necessary.”

The order directs the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies to begin a declassification review and requires that declassified documents be released over the next six months. Still, the practical impact of the move and any new documents it might yield was not immediately clear.