Senate’s bill allowing Sept.11 families to sue Saudi Arabia could backfire


On The morning of 11th September 2001, Al Qaeda Hijackers flew 2 Boeing 767 jets right into the complex, right into each tower.
On The morning of 11th September 2001, Al Qaeda Hijackers flew 2 Boeing 767 jets right into the complex, right into each tower.
By Ben Rosen, CSM
The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would allow any of the nearly 3,000 families of the Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role it might have had in the attacks.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D), one of the legislation’s sponsors, said it would “bring a small measures of justice” to the victims and their families and hold Saudi Arabia “accountable.”

But the Obama administration, the Saudi government, and others are of a different opinion: The legislation could expose the United States to an international relations nightmare.

“[T]he potential exposure such a measure would bring to the U.S. is inestimable,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in an editorial that slammed the bill.

“Expect to see civil claims by victims of collateral damage in [US] military attacks, lawsuits by people caught up in the nation’s post-9/11 detention policies, including Guantanamo Bay, and challenges over atrocities committed by U.S.-backed Syrian rebels. Pretty much anywhere that U.S. policies have led to damages, those who suffered could potentially seek redress in their own courts, jeopardizing American assets overseas, where the rule of law sometimes is solid, but in other cases is a tool wielded for political purposes.”

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act would give Americans the right to bring a lawsuit against any foreign government tied to terror attacks on US soil. The legislation, however, is meant to allow the families of victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia, since some lawmakers allege it supported some of the 19 terrorists.

In addition to urging the Obama administration to declassify 28 pages of an 838-page congressional report about the attacks, thousands of family members brought a class-action lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, albeit unsuccessfully. A federal judge dismissed Riyadh from the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence the government was involved. And the US Supreme Court later declined to take up a case that examined if the lower courts should have dismissed the lawsuit altogether.

The legislation on the table aims to amend the 1976 Foreign Services Immunities Act that, for the most part, shields any foreign government from being sued by American citizens. In fact, Saudi Arabia invoked it in the case that the federal judge dismissed.

But there have been exceptions involving terrorism, notably against Chile and Taiwan, both of which involved state-sanctioned assassinations, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The families of Americans killed in terror attacks in Israel from 2002 to 2004 won a lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for their involvement. The Palestinian Authority and PLO have appealed the decision, arguing the attacks were directed at Israelis, not Americans.

The argument of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir is different, falling in line more with the Obama administration and Los Angeles Times editorial board.

“What [Congress is] … doing is stripping the principle of sovereign immunities which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle,” said Mr. Al-Jubeir in a statement May 3. “That’s why the [Obama] administration is opposed to it, and that’s why every country in the world is opposed to it.”

White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest said the Obama administration’s opposition to the legislation is in the same vein.

“It could put the United States and our taxpayers and our service members and our diplomats at significant risk if countries were – other countries were to adopt a similar law,” he said in a press briefing April 18, adding any “concerns” against Saudi Arabia should be addressed through diplomacy.

Mr. Earnest does not expect the president to sign the legislation, and the House has not acted on it, according to the Associated Press.

Steve Vladeck, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law that specializes in counterterrorism, tells The Christian Science Monitor that one late amendment to the bill could minimize its effectiveness. The amendment would give the government the ability to put any lawsuit on hold, especially for national security or diplomacy reasons, he says.

“One of the really interesting questions now that will come out in the House is: Will that provision have the effect of watering down the bill to the point of toothlessness?” asks Professor Vladeck. “In some sense it’s the government saying, ‘Don’t worry. It’s not going to be so bad.’ ”




7 responses to “Senate’s bill allowing Sept.11 families to sue Saudi Arabia could backfire”

  1. MekensehParty Avatar

    If some Saudi royals are directly involved then they should face justice. Until today, KSA has done too little to its citizens who are still sponsoring terrorism.
    The Saudi threats are just empty words. They know very well how many more cards the US can counter with. One of them can simply be shopping for oil somewhere else… Somewhere so close that it can bring unemployment to 2-3% and boost the economy even further.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Suing a whole country for the work of a few brain-dead terror-types seems a little much.
      Even if it IS a ‘Family Business’. (soon to have American ‘shareholders’ no doubt…)
      Next the idea of privacy for ‘Consular Packages’ will go the way of the Dodo, like flying passenger’s freedoms, in hopes of catching potential ‘official’ words of any government to link to radicals, or to search dead people’s phones, just so money could be dragged through a court proceeding.
      Some countries like Iran already disrespect a concept of Embassy property. Will USA do the same?
      It wasn’t ‘top guys’ flying airplanes … and we know there’s enough suspicions about who actually ‘done it’ anyway, don’t we? The ‘little people’ seeking some truth with details are not going to get it from courts.
      All they are getting from this is the ‘hype’.
      The BEST thing ‘America’ could have done for ‘victims’ of anything like this was to have made sure the people killed there received ‘fair compensation’ packages, and the injured citizens received total health-care for life … immediately after … which would take a lot of the bitter wind out of the sails of idiots who felt they could hurt Americans by planting bombs or flying airplanes ‘against the west’.
      Changing time-honoured ‘World Diplomatic Rules’ in this manner isn’t going to help anyone.

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar

        Speaking of the Paranoia on Planes bit … Last week a Mathematician was dragged off a plane because he was ‘spied on’ by another passenger who couldn’t understand either the math or the Arabic characters is his side-notes. After all, he may have been figuring how to blow up the planet with his ‘advanced physics’ calculations. :-)))

      2. Hind Abyad Avatar
        Hind Abyad

        What about the British royals. Queen seated next to Bahraini king at birthday bash… because he’s bankrolling UK navy base? The £15 million ($23 million) base is mainly funded by the Bahraini royal family and is expected to accommodate Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and Type 45 destroyers.

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar

          Kings & Queens sitting together doesn’t seem absurd. And I’m sure Bahrain would enjoy the ‘protection’ of the classy destroyers … especially from Israel & Saudi Princes. ;-))

      3. MekensehParty Avatar

        See, if the Saudis didn’t make a fuss about it and started threatening (of pulling their good dollars out) no one would be hearing about it and the bill would have been vetoed by Obama. But that’s what the Arabs never understood about the US, is that it doesn’t react well to threats, and goes immediately on the offense.
        If a Saudi official, high up, is involved (and at least one is, one way or the other) the US will use this case to put the Saudis in place.
        When Obama spoke of “free rider” he was being nice. He should have called them by their true names: backstabbing murderous sons of bitches.

  2. Reasonableman Avatar

    Probably the worst thing that can happen.
    USA has third largest amount of investments in saudi arabia.
    Plus what makes anyone think it’s all about the americans getting solace, how about all the war crimes america has committed in their foreign invasions?

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