House approves bill allowing US to sue over terrorism; White House will veto

UPDATE – 9/15, 2:49 p.m. EST: Saudi senior policy adviser Abdullah Al al-Sheikh said Wednesday that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), passed by the U.S. House on Friday, “sets a dangerous precedent in the field of international relations,” by allowing the victims of terrorist attacks to sue countries who support such acts of violence.

“(JASTA risks) triggering 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,” al-Sheikh said.

In May, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, warned that the passage of terrorist liability laws would cause foreign countries to pull their investments out of the United States.

 

Over the objections of the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure Friday allowing American citizens to sue Saudi Arabia for any role the kingdom played in aiding terrorists who attacked New York or the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Approved by a voice vote, the bill passed unanimously.

President Obama disapproves of the measure and White House spokesman Josh Earnest reaffirmed Monday that the legislation will be vetoed over fears it would create a schism with the long-time U.S. ally in the Middle East and put Americans at risk of retaliation.

“The way that this bill is currently written exposes the United States, U.S. diplomats, U.S. servicemembers and, in some situations, even U.S. companies to significant risk in courts all across the world,” Earnest said. “The president believes that it’s important to look out for our country, to look out for our servicemembers, to look out for these diplomats and allowing this bill to come into law would increase the risk that it would face.”

House Resolution 3815, or the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), countermands a clause in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976, which fixed boundaries over litigation against sovereign nations in the U.S. court system.

Controversy over alleged Saudi connection to the 9/11 hijackers first emerged when it was revealed 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers involved in the 2001 attack were exposed to be of Saudi origin.  Dark hints of Saudi complicity were further revealed with the conclusions from the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.

The joint-congressional report elevated suspicions when a controversial section, the “28” pages, remained classified.  A source of heated controversy, the chapter was belatedly released by Congress in July and revealed panel members concluded some hijackers “were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government.”

Friday’s House vote parallels an identical Senate bill passed in May, which also passed unanimously. Although the White House has alluded to vetoing the bill, the consensus in both chambers make overriding JASTA is unlikely.

On Monday, the Gulf Cooperation Council, comprising six Arab countries, issued a statement saying it had “deep concern” about JASTA because it violates international law and sets a bad precedent for the future of relations between the U.S. and the Middle East.

United Arab Emirates foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also issued a statement Monday, which was critical of the legislation.

“This law is not equal with the foundations and principles of relations among states, and represents a clear violation given its negative repercussions and dangerous precedents,” the minister’s statement read.

 

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