After years of back-and-forth debate, Congress has finally passed a bill that would allow victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. The bill's passage is considered a victory for those who have long alleged that Saudi Arabia had a role in the attacks.
But is there any proof of Saudi involvement? Trace Dominguez investigates in today's DNews dispatch.
First, some details on the proposed new law: Just days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation previously approved by the Senate. President Obama, however, has threatened to veto the bill, which essentially strips foreign nations of immunity from American lawsuits. The White House warns that foreign countries or individuals could, in turn, bring legal action against the United States to address past grievances.
Even with this bill passed, and despite many suspicious links between Saudi nationals and the 9/11 attacks, there may not be enough actual proof to win court cases. In the final 9/11 Commission Report, the U.S. government "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded [al-Qaeda]." Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers, as well as Osama bin Laden, were Saudi nationals.
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However, an alleged 28 classified pages from a 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 were rumored to contain direct evidence of this Saudi involvement. When the pages were finally released in 2016, they stated that "While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government."
What's more, two former U.S. senators testified in 2012 that they had seen additional classified information confirming the allegations against Saudi Arabia.
Diplomatically, it's a tricky situation. Saudi Arabia has fiercely denied all allegations and, despite the country's human rights abuses, is a strong U.S. ally in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is also, of course, one of the biggest oil producers in the world.
Proponents of the bill argue that the legislation -- titled the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" (JASTA) -- will bring justice to victims as well as deter international terrorism. From the office of bill sponsor and New York Senator Charles Schumer:
"This legislation is long-sought after by families of 9/11 in order to bring a small amount of justice for the loss of their loved ones, by allowing them to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism."
-- Glenn McDonald
The New York Times: Saudi Arabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill
The Guardian: 9/11 Report's Classified '28 Pages' About Potential Saudi Arabia Ties Released
CNN: $116 Trillion Lawsuit Filed by 9/11 Families