Obama likely to veto bill allowing US citizens to sue Saudi Arabia for 9/11

Published September 15th, 2016 - 10:56 GMT
President Barack Obama at a press conference (AFP/File)
President Barack Obama at a press conference (AFP/File)

 

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA) would make it legal for US citizens, most notably the families of 9/11 victims, to sue foreign governments who have been accused of sponsoring or funding terrorist operations.

Though 15 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi, the government has fiercely denied any involvement or awareness on behalf of the Saudi government before the attacks. Some members of the 9/11 Commission like former Navy Secretary John Lehman claim otherwise, but the CIA has officially stated that it does not see any link between the attacks and the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia has condemned the bill, warning that it could threaten US-Saudi ties and destabilize the region economically. An estimated $750 billion in Saudi assets that could theoretically be frozen by US courts would likely have to be sold if the bill passed, in addition to a cooling on the trade relationship between the two nations.

The spokesperson for the Saudi Shura Council (the high ruling body in the Saudi government) Abdullah al-Asheikh told press this week that “This legislation sets a dangerous precedent in the field of international relation.”

They added that it could bring about “...chaos and instability in international relations and might contribute to supporting extremism, which is under intellectual siege, as the new legislation offers extremists a new pretext to lure youths to their extremist thoughts.”

Saudi Arabia is not alone in its fear of JASTA. Both the Jordanian and Emirati governments have issued similar statements, with the White House also warning against the possible consequences of such legislation if were passed.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier this week that the bill could potentially open the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits against the United States: "It's not hard to imagine other countries using this law as an excuse to haul U.S. diplomats or U.S. service members or even U.S. companies into courts all around the world,” he said.

White House spokesperson Eric Shultz told reporters aboard Air Force One this week that President Obama intends to veto the bill. In the case of a likely veto the bill could still be passed via an override by Congress, however this would require a ⅔ majority in both the house and senate.

JC

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