Is Senate bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia all it seems? Lawmaker âadded loophole that allows State department to
Is Senate bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia all it seems? Lawmaker âadded loophole that allows State department to stall actionâ
May 25, 2016 By Tom Wyke for MailOnline and Associated Press
~The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would allow families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia
~The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act had triggered a threat from Riyadh to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy
~Now it has been revealed loophole was inserted to reduce bill's power
~Senate Democrats had firmly supported the legislation, putting them at odds with the Obama administration
The Senate's unanimous passing of legislation that allows families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia may not be as groundbreaking as it was first believed.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was initially reported as being a chance for the families to pursue damages from the Saudi government but now it has emerged a clause was inserted to water down the bill's power.
The wording of the loophole states the Secretary of State just has to engage 'in good-faith discussions with the foreign-state defendant concerning the resolution of claims against the foreign state,' according to the NY Post.
It had been feared the legislation would trigger potential diplomatic issues with Riyadh, which was threatening to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy, if the bill is enacted.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gives victims' families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, D.C. area and Pennsylvania.
The House still must act on the legislation. However the loophole means that the legal action only requires discussion with Saudi Arabia.
Relatives of September 11 victims have urged the Obama administration to declassify and release U.S. intelligence that allegedly discusses possible Saudi involvement in the attacks.
Passage of the bill on Tuesday sends the message that the United States 'will combat terrorism with every tool we have available, and that the victims of terrorist attacks in our country should have every means at their disposal to seek justice,' Cornyn said.
Schumer said that any foreign government that aids terrorists who strike the U.S. 'will pay a price if it is proven they have done so'.
Senate Democrats had firmly supported the legislation, putting them at odds with the Obama administration.
Schumer was confident the Senate had the necessary two-thirds vote of the chamber to override a presidential veto.
'We don't think their arguments stand up,' the New York lawmaker said at a news conference after the Senate action.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that controls foreign aid, had blocked the bill from moving to the Senate floor until changes were made to ensure the legislation didn't backfire on the United States.
Graham's apprehension was rooted in the possibility a foreign country could sue the United States if the door is opened for U.S. citizens to take the Saudis to court. Graham released his hold earlier this month, clearing the way for Senate action.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also had warned that the legislation, if passed, would alienate Saudi Arabia and undermine a longstanding yet strained relationship with a critical U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Schumer said it is false to claim that the bill encourages retaliation or litigation against the United States.
'We're not busy training people to blow up buildings and kill innocent civilians in other countries,' Schumer said.