Philadelphia Inquirer: Law Review: One contingent hopes Kagan hearings revisit 9/11 case

Philadelphia Inquirer: Law Review: One contingent hopes Kagan hearings revisit 9/11 case
By Chris Mondics

Inquirer Staff Writer

At a time when the ideal Supreme Court nominee comes coated in Teflon, the better to fend off partisan attacks, Elena Kagan has a pretty good resume.
She has never served as a judge and her writings reveal little about how she would rule on the most ideologically divisive issues of the day. The absence of any meaningful paper trail, apart from things such as her decision as Harvard Law School dean to ban military recruiters, makes her less of a target.

Yet there is one legal case in Kagan's background that to a small group of litigants constitutes a profound distortion of justice, a slap in the face that they say stings even now, one year later.

And they contend that the Senate Judiciary Committee should keep this case in mind, painful though it may be to revisit the matter, as it reviews Kagan's nomination in the coming weeks.

It was on May 29 of last year that Kagan - as U.S. solicitor general - filed legal papers with the Supreme Court urging it not to hear arguments in a lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia brought by thousands of family members and other victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Days later, the Supreme Court rejected the case, following the lead of the solicitor general, as it often does in deciding whether to weigh in on a matter.

The Supreme Court decision effectively let stand lower-court rulings that the Saudi government and senior members of the Saudi royal family could not be sued by U.S. citizens - even if the plaintiffs had shown that millions of dollars in Saudi government money went to bankroll al-Qaeda in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We were terribly disappointed with her ruling," said Beverly Burnett, of Northfield, Minn., whose son, Tom, perished on United Flight 93 when it went down near Shanksville, Pa. "We had hoped she would be with us so that we could have our day in court."

What Burnett and many others desperately want to know is why, after evidence that some believe points to Saudi government responsibility for the attacks, they so far have been barred by U.S. courts from having their case heard.

And why the Obama administration argued, through Kagan, that their case should not be heard.

Burnett and the other plaintiffs alleged in lawsuits brought by several law firms, including the Center City firm of Cozen O'Connor P.C., that for years the Saudi government funded Islamist charities that in turn supplied money and logistical support to al-Qaeda fighters in the Balkans and Southeast Asia.

The plaintiffs charged that the Saudis continued to finance the charities even after U.S. officials on two occasions warned the money was being used to support terrorist operations.

Because of longstanding economic, military, and diplomatic ties between the two countries, the litigation was sensitive for both the Obama administration and Saudis.

The Saudis complained in court papers that the lawsuits had upset relations between the two countries. And, as Kagan last year weighed what position to take in the Supreme Court appeal, plaintiffs lawyers lobbied the administration to decide in their favor.

It didn't work.

Kagan's amicus brief, which said such lawsuits would interfere with U.S. foreign policy, and the ensuing Supreme Court decision, prompted Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) to introduce legislation that would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law was cited as a reason for ruling against the plaintiffs. Specter sought to make clear that U.S. citizens can sue foreign governments that finance acts of terrorism, even in politically delicate situations.

Specter, who was joined by cosponsors Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), was blunt in his criticism of Kagan. He contended that the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case because the litigation had become an irritant to U.S.-Saudi relations.

Of Kagan, he said, "She wants to coddle the Saudis."

Specter had earlier voted against her nomination to be solicitor general because, he said, she had ducked questions during her confirmation hearings on the Saudi litigation and other matters.

He still seemed irritated Monday. In a meeting with reporters, he promised as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to grill her once again on why the lawsuits should not go forward.

The 9/11 victims and their family members, at the very least the ones who filed the lawsuits, would expect nothing less.

Contact staff writer Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or



That of all the possible appointees, Obama picks the one who prevented a 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia from progressing.

It just won't go away.


If the Saudi's face heat on this topic, they would retaliate by telling what they know -- or at least, more of what they know, which is surely considerable. I believe I even remember reading a quote to that effect, from Prince Bandar.

well of course ...

the Saudis could spill the beans about how much covert support the US govt has funneled to AQ via the Saudis over the years ... no big surprises there

Obama Administration: Coverup is Job #1

The original crimes and ongoing criminal coverup now span 2 administrations. Unbelievable. Have the crimes of one president ever brought down the next? Seems plausible here.

but are they ...

REALLY two different administrations, or just different names and faces for the puppets?

Maybe this is why?

Bush,Obama,bow,Saudi King

The fight goes on

Mr Magic Bullet tries and fails to find his conscience, which he sold to the devil about 45 years ago. Sorry Arlen, it ain't comin' back, no matter how much you want it. That requires more honesty. Amazing really that he can get out of bed in the morning. These guys keep on pretending they stand for something, even though true integrity never comes anywhere near them. This Kagan is a useless Obama plant and will accomplish exactly zero for Truth. The fight goes on.