President Obama has vetoed a bill which would allow families of the 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
On Friday, President Obama kept his promise to veto legislation that would allow the 9/11 victims’ family members to sue Saudi Arabia, citing threats to U.S. national security. CNN reports that Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress say they’ll override Obama’s veto next week.
Obama’s veto comes two weeks after the House of Representatives passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, which would allow victims of terrorism and their families to sue nations suspected of financing or otherwise sponsoring terrorism. Currently, this is only legal for countries who are on the U.S. government’s “state sponsors of terror” list, which includes nations like North Korea and Iran. The new change would allow the 9/11 victims’ family members to sue nations like Saudi Arabia. JASTA unanimously passed the Senate in May after a hard-fought battle by the families of the victims of 9/11.
“The lobbying effort on Capitol Hill against the legislation has involved the administration but also representatives for the Saudi government, which denies any involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks,” CNN reported. “The alliance puts Obama in the unlikely position of defending the same position as the Kingdom, with which he’s had longstanding disputes over counterterrorism strategies and human rights.”
If supporters can gather a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House they could override Obama’s veto. “Our assumption is that the veto will be overridden,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
“We certainly are counting votes and having a number of conversations with members of Congress in both parties and both houses of Congress,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday. “I’m also acknowledging that the politics of the situation are really tough. And if anything, I think that is an illustration of the principled nature of the president’s position. The president’s not blind to the politics of the situation.”
In a three-page veto message to Congress, Obama said he sympathized with the 9/11 families, but that JASTA “would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks.”
Obama also claimed that JASTA would “upset longstanding international principles regarding sovereign immunity” and create a situation where the U.S. government faces lawsuits by foreign parties. Obama also claimed that “removing sovereign immunity in U.S. courts from foreign governments based solely on allegations that such foreign governments’ actions abroad had a connection to terrorism-related injuries on U.S. soil, threatens to undermine these longstanding principles.”
Mr. Obama’s statement makes one wonder – what exactly does a foreign government need to do to warrant investigation? If allegations of terrorism and harming Americans are not enough to warrant removing sovereign immunity, then what the hell is?
“Any indication that a foreign government played a role in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil is a matter of deep concern and merits a forceful, unified Federal Government response that considers the wide range of important and effective tools available,” Obama wrote. Ironically, this is exactly what the 28 pages and the 9/11 Truth movement have said for years yet the U.S. government refuses to launch a truly independent investigation. Despite clear evidence of financing from foreign nations, the U.S. government continues to partner with Pakistan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
A coalition of activists, researchers, and family members have long questioned Saudi links to the attacks on 9/11. They believed the 28 redacted pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 would implicate Saudi nationals or even the Saudi government in financing, executing, or planning the terrorist attacks.
However, when those pages were finally released in July, Saudi government officials hailed the declassified content as proof that the kingdom had no role in the attacks. Former Sen. Bob Graham, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee who had been extensively involved in the fight to release the pages, disagreed.
“The information in the 28 pages reinforces the belief that the 19 hijackers — most of whom spoke little English, had limited education and had never before visited the United States — did not act alone in perpetrating the sophisticated 9/11 plot,” Graham toldCNN when the pages were released.
Despite President Obama’s veto, the 9/11 family members continue to fight for truth and justice.
“The president’s rationales to veto JASTA don’t hold weight. They are 100% wrong,” Terry Strada, whose husband Tom Strada died in World Trade Center collapse, told CNN. “For us, the 9/11 families and survivors, all we are asking for is an opportunity to have our case heard in a courtroom. Denying us justice is un-American.”