Specter looks to revive 9/11 suits against Saudis

Posted on Thu, Dec. 24, 2009

Specter looks to revive 9/11 suits against Saudis

By Chris Mondics
Inquirer Staff Writer

In a sign that the bitter litigation between victims of the 9/11 attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia is far from over, Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday introduced legislation that would overturn court rulings barring lawsuits that contend the desert kingdom helped cause the terrorism.

Specter (D., Pa.) said the legislation would clarify that lawsuits by U.S. citizens could go forward without a sign-off from the State Department.

A federal appeals court in Manhattan last year dismissed claims against the Saudi government, saying such litigation can proceed only if the State Department finds that the Saudis provided financial aid and other assistance to terrorist groups.

Besides clarifying the law, the bill would reinstate those lawsuits.

The Philadelphia law firm Cozen O'Connor has sued Saudi Arabia, members of the Saudi royal family, and more than a dozen Islamic charities, alleging responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. The Cozen lawsuit, on behalf of dozens of U.S. and international insurers that lost billions of dollars at ground zero, accuses the Saudi government of financing charities that in turn laundered money into al-Qaeda.

Thousands of victims and relatives, represented by other law firms, also have sued the Saudis.

In a Senate floor speech, Specter argued that the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was a misreading of the law and could hamper efforts to fight terrorism.

"Substantial evidence establishes that these defendants had provided funding and sponsorship to al-Qaeda without which it could not have carried out the 9/11 attacks," he said. "The Second Circuit's and other lower court rulings not only deprive the victims of terrorism the compensation to which they are entitled but also remove a powerful weapon in our arsenal against foreign terrorism."

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), giving it a bipartisan cast. It would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to make clear that U.S. citizens can sue foreign governments that support terrorist groups for attacks that occur in the United States, even without a State Department designation that a government had aided terrorists.

A federal District Court judge ruled in Manhattan in 2005 that the Saudi government could not be sued, and the Second Circuit upheld that decision.

In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case after the Obama administration argued that permitting such lawsuits without a State Department sign-off could interfere with U.S. foreign policy.

The degree to which the executive branch should influence litigation against foreign governments has been at the heart of debates over the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

For much of the nation's history, the executive branch had near complete control in deciding whether U.S. citizens could sue.

But that gave rise to allegations that politics, not questions of law, had become decisive. In response, ever more specific laws laid out circumstances under which U.S. citizens could sue foreign governments.

Critics, including Specter, insist that the Obama administration intervened in May with an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court not to take the case because Saudi Arabia is the nation's most important Arab ally and the litigation had become an irritant in U.S.-Saudi relations.

They contend that the filing was timed to coincide with President Obama's visit to Riyadh, an allegation denied by U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who prepared the brief.

"She wants to coddle the Saudis," Specter said of Kagan.

The bill's chances of passage were unclear yesterday, but legislative staffers said more cosponsors would probably join in the coming weeks.

And Specter said its prospects were good.

"I think it will pass," he said.

Fact #14

The Joint Congressional Inquiry, which both Bush and Cheney tried to "limit the scope" of, released a report with 28 redacted pages. Apparently, those 28 pages talk about "possible Saudi Arabian financial links." In 2004, Sen. Bob Graham says that the Bush White House is covering up Saudi Arabia's possible connection to the two hijackers that lived in San Diego. He said the information about them, "present[s] a compelling case that there was Saudi assistance." He also says that the Bush Administration directed the FBI to "to restrain and obfuscate" any investigations into the connection. The landlord of the two hijackers was Abdussatar Shaikh, an FBI asset handled by agent Steven Butler. The FBI originally tried to prevent Butler from testifying before the Congressional Inquiry, but when he finally did, he said that he may have been able to uncover the 9/11 plot if the CIA shared their information on the two hijackers. He said, "it would have made a huge difference." [...] "We would have immediately opened... investigations. We would have given them the full court press. We would... have done everything-physical surveillance, technical surveillance, and other assets." On 1/8/2008, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that "a huge lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia and key members of its royal family was put to a crucial test today as lawyers for victims of the 9/11 attacks urged a federal appeals court to reinstate the government of Saudi Arabia as a defendant." The Cozen O'Connor law firm in Philadelphia "was the first to file suit against the government of Saudi Arabia in 2003, charging that the desert kingdom bears responsibility for the attacks because it permitted Islamic charities under its control to bankroll Osama bin Laden and his global terror movement." The lawsuit "suffered a setback in 2005 when New York federal district court judge Richard Conway Casey ruled that the federal foreign sovereign immunity act barred lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and members of the royal family." On 11/13/2008, it was reported that "thousands of victims of the 9/11 attacks appealed to the Supreme Court yesterday, asking it to overturn a lower court decision barring lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for supporting acts of terrorism." On 1/6/2009, it is reported that "lawyers for Saudi Arabia have asserted in court papers that the Supreme Court should reject arguments that the desert kingdom be held accountable for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because, over a period of many years, it financed al-Qaeda. In papers filed with the Supreme Court, lawyers for the kingdom and several high-ranking Saudi royals say that U.S. law provides blanket immunity to Saudi Arabia from lawsuits over the 9/11 attacks." On 2/24/2009, it is reported that "the Supreme Court yesterday asked the U.S. Solicitor General's office to weigh in on whether a huge lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia charging that it was a source of terrorist financing before the 9/11 attacks should move forward." On 5/29/2009, the New York Times reports that "the Justice Department, in a brief filed Friday before the Supreme Court, said it did not believe the Saudis could be sued in American court over accusations brought by families of the Sept. 11 victims that the royal family had helped finance Al Qaeda. The department said it saw no need for the court to review lower court rulings that found in the Saudis’ favor in throwing out the lawsuit." 9/11 Family Member, and "Jersey Girl" Kristen Breitweiser said, "I find this reprehensible. One would have hoped that the Obama administration would have taken a different stance than the Bush administration, and you wonder what message this sends to victims of terrorism around the world." On 5/30/2009, the victims family members released two press releases. The first one states, "today the Obama Administration filed in the Supreme Court a document that expressed the Administration's decision to stand with a group of Saudi princes and against the right of American citizens -- 9/11 family members -- to have our day in court. Let there be no doubt: The filing was political in nature and stands as a betrayal of everyone who lost a loved one or was injured on September 11, 2001." The second one states, "on the day that President Obama holds his first summit with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah in Riyadh, the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism charged that recent actions by his administration would enable five of the king's closest relatives to escape accountability for their role in financing and materially supporting the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." The second press release lists "allegations made in 2002 of the Saudi royal family's sponsorship and support of al Qaeda that the families believe have been ignored by the Obama Administration." On 6/9/2009, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that this case "is likely to reach a critical juncture this month when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear arguments on Saudi Arabia's legal exposure." It goes on to say that "the hurdle for the plaintiffs, both insurers and individual victims, isn't simply facts and law, but also the political dimensions. Saudi Arabia is one of the United States' most important allies in the Middle East. It has been a forward staging area for the U.S. military, deemed an important counterweight to Iran's regional ambitions, seen as a huge source of energy, and a very big purchaser of American goods and services." Tom Burnett who lost his son on Flight 93 asks, "why would the Obama administration give less weight to the principles of justice, transparency, and security and more to the pleadings of a foreign government? It strikes a blow against the public's right to know who financed and supported" the 9/11 attacks." "Kagan's May 29 brief, representing the opinion of the Obama administration, was significant because the Supreme Court in most cases follows the solicitor general's lead." On 6/11/2009, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that "lawyers representing victims of the 9/11 attacks charge that the government sought to "appease" Saudi Arabia by urging the Supreme Court not to hear arguments that the kingdom could be sued for its alleged role in funding the attackers." A "brief filed by the Center City law firm of Cozen O'Connor and other lawyers representing victims, employed unusually scathing and at times emotional language, suggesting at one point that the government's brief was timed to coincide with President Obama's visit to Saudi Arabia last week." "A spokeswoman for U.S. Solictor General Elena Kagan said the May 29 filing of the government's brief had been determined by the schedule of the Supreme Court, which is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of the month." On 6/23/2009, the Washington Times reports that a "series of closed-door meetings between the relatives' groups and Justice Department officials, arranged as an update on Mr. Obama's plan to close the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, turned instead into a sharp clash over the Saudi legal action." Apparently, "the family members demanded to be be heard on the White House's stance during a series of closed-door meetings at the State Department and the Justice Department last week." On 6/24/2009, the New York Times reported that "classified American intelligence documents related to Saudi finances were leaked anonymously to lawyers for the families." It goes on to say that Obama's "Justice Department had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material." 9/11 Family Member Kristen Breitweiser "said in an interview that during a White House meeting in February between President Obama and victims’ families, the president told her that he was willing to make the pages (28 redacted pages of the JICI) public. But she said she had not heard from the White House since then." On 6/29/2009, it is reported that "the Supreme Court has refused to allow victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to pursue lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and four of its princes over charitable donations that were allegedly funneled to al-Qaida." The "justices refused to review the ruling by a U.S. appeals court in New York that the Saudi defendants were protected by sovereign immunity in the lawsuit brought by victims of the attacks and their families." The Supreme Court "turned down the appeal without comment."

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? The facts speak for themselves.


In my current article at www.DNotice.org ('Springtime For Michael Springman Or How A Visa Bureau Chief In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Learned To Love Denying Visas To Terrorists'), and if my research is correct, it wasn't Saudi Arabia that granted visas to 15 of the 9/11 hijackers to travel to the United States, even though all 15 visas, according to six experts, "...should have been denied on their face", it was the United States 'CIA' Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia that approved those unqualified persons to travel to the United States.

Why would the CIA do that? More importantly, who in the United States government wanted these terrorists in America?

Dean Jackson/Editor-in-Chief DNotice.org
Washington, DC

I always thought this angle was a distraction...

now it's confirmed.

If there's anything that would confirm that 'the Saudi angle" was/is a distraction, it would
have to be this: Senator Arlen-magic-bullet-theory-Specter introduces legislation to ensure
that the campaign to steer our frustration around the unanswered questions of 9/11 towards
Saudis... remains alive and well.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there was no Saudi involvement; but clearly, at a lower level,
in cahoots with their American masters. Could the Saudis effect a stand-down of American
airspace? Could the Saudis rig the towers with explosives? The Saudi royal family would not live
a week if not for security provided by American Vinnel Corp.

They follow orders.

This initiative clearly parallels the attempt by the intelligence services to promote 'the Cuban"
connection in the assassination of JFK.

Mr. Arlen Specter... the living specter of naked ambition and macabre imagination, who secured his place within the halls of infamy and political "success" with the most ridiculous, obvious, servile and disgusting
theory of the 'magic-bullet'... comes to the rescue once again... providing us with 'an explanation' and a reminder that slime like him 'shall not rest until the truth is told.'

Yeah, right.

Again, I agree that the Saudis have something to hide; but they're just a small part of the picture; and we need to keep clear eyes to how 'the conversation' is being manipulated.

While typing this out on this Christmas day, the evening News brings us word of the latest 'Al Queda' -related hijacking of an airliner landing in Detroit.

Yeah, right. "The 'Algerian' was on a watch-list but not the 'no-fly' list..." (yeah right... when a hundred thousand 'activist-types' can't get on a plane). "Airport security is sure to tighten..." snooze.

"Our next top story for the night... the Pope attacked for the second Christmas in a row... by the same woman.." yeah right.