A group of 16 U.S. Senators are pushing through a Bill that will allow prosecution of Saudi Arabia’s government for their role in helping to conduct the 9/11 terror attacks.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is being pushed through for a third time, but this time there is hope that Congress will finally approve it, due to the large number of support the Bill is now receiving.
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JASTA will allow civil action against elements within the Saudi Arabian government by survivors and victims’ families, without any form of sovereign immunity – something the Saudi’s are currently hiding behind.
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Vice News reports:
JASTA would amend FISA and prevent accused foreign sponsors of terrorism from invoking sovereign immunity in cases involving terrorist acts occurring in the US.
“The bottom line is that victims of terror on American soil ought to have an ability to hold accountable the foreign powers and other entities that fund the hate-filled organizations that inflict injury and death on our fellow citizens,” Schumer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our courts have prevented that and allowed countries like Saudi Arabia that have provided financial support to terror-linked operations to escape any repercussions.”
Saudi Arabia, a stalwart US ally in the Middle East, has always denied involvement in the al Qaeda plot.
“The idea that the Saudi government funded, organized, or even knew about September 11 is malicious and blatantly false,” Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a member of the royal family and an ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005, said in 2003. “There is something wrong with the basic logic of those who spread these spurious charges. Al Qaeda is a cult that is seeking to destroy Saudi Arabia as well as the United States. By what logic would we support a cult that is trying to kill us?”
The kingdom points to the findings of the 9/11 Commission, which stated that it had “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the terrorist organization. But many current and former American officials with knowledge of classified materials concerning 9/11 say that the use of that line to exonerate Saudi Arabia is problematic and misleading due to the limitations of the commission’s investigation and the mass of intelligence that remains classified.
Lawyers for victim’s families and survivors assert that other evidence proves their case, and have introduced damning affidavits from two members of the commission and the co-chair of a separate Senate investigation to back their claim. Each of the men who provided affidavits, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, and former Sen. Bob Graham, say that the 9/11 Commission did not conclusively rule out the role of individuals either within or with ties to the Saudi government.
In court, however, the Saudis’ central argument remains that they cannot be sued in the first place due to FISA.
Graham, who co-chaired the Senate’s Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, has led calls for the release of a 28-page portion of the inquiry’s report that was almost entirely redacted by President George W. Bush’s administration on national security grounds, which he says explicitly implicates the kingdom.
“What I can say is that it’s primarily the topic of who financed 9/11, that it points a strong figure at Saudi Arabia,” Graham told VICE News.
In an affidavit filed this past February, Graham was more explicit.
“I am convinced that there was direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th Attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia, and that a Saudi government agent living in the United States, Omar al Bayoumi, provided direct assistance to September 11th hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar,” Graham wrote. “Based on the evidence discovered by the Joint Inquiry, I further believe that al Bayoumi was acting at the direction of elements of the Saudi government and that an official from the Islamic and Cultural Affairs of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles, Fahad al Thumairy, likely played some role in the support network for the September 11th Attacks.”
Lawyers for Saudi Arabia, referring to wording in the 9/11 Commission report, have dismissed this account as “speculation,” and say that the plaintiffs “have no evidence that Fahad al Thumairy did anything to help al Hazmi or al Mihdhar.”
Like Graham, the families suing Saudi Arabia also allege that charities with links to the Saudi government played a significant role in financing al Qaeda in the years leading up to 9/11.
“The central thesis is that certain elements of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs used the government platforms available to them to channel resources to al Qaeda,” Sean Carter, one of the lawyers representing plaintiffs, told VICE News.
Carter said that Saudi immunity has no merit and that the lawsuit should be able to proceed based on existing laws.