Congress Overrides Obama Veto: 9/11 Families Can Sue Saudi Arabia
Congress has voted to override a presidential veto of legislation that allows 9/11 families to sue the government of Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for their alleged backing of the terrorist hijackers.
When he vetoed it, President Barack Obama argued the legislation, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, would undermine U.S. interests and expose American military officials to potential legal problems in other countries. But many 9/11 family members are happy JASTA has become law.
According to Frank Fetchet, vice president of Voices of September 11th , whose son Brad was killed when the Twin Towers collapsed, the primary role of our government is to keep us safe. He believes the government failed to do that on 9/11.
"My son was murdered because of that failure so I think that the government owes us as family members a complete understanding of what happened, who funded this, who planned it, who helped enable it,” he said.
“We’re owed a complete understanding of why our loved ones were murdered. We should be able to go and fully understand Saudi Arabia’s role in this case with 9/11.”
He pointed out several of the 9/11 hijackers, when they arrived in Los Angeles, were moved into an apartment with Saudi officials reportedly working on their behalf.
“We should be fully understanding of what their government did,” he said.
Fetchet stressed although 9/11 is the major focus of this bill, it keeps all of us safer.
“Countries will see that we will hold them fully accountable for any funding of terrorism where somebody is lost on our soil,” he said. “Whether it’s 9/11, whether it’s some act by ISIS, where we could tie it back to a country that helped fund their bad deeds, it helps all of us as Americans.”
He added with this law “any country, not just some of the bad guys out there, but any country that funds terrorism on our soil and it’s proven should be held fully accountable, legally, sanctions, lawsuits, financial payments.”
The Senate vote was 97-1, with only Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., backing the president. The House vote a few hours later was 348-77, with 123 Democrats rebuffing the president and voting to override. Obama said during a CNN interview that overriding his veto was a mistake that may set a "dangerous precedent."
Speaking at a forum in Washington, CIA Director John Brennan said he was concerned about how Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, would interpret the bill. He said the Saudis provide significant amounts of information to the U.S. to help foil extremist plots.
"It would be an absolute shame if this legislation, in any way, influenced the Saudi willingness to continue to be among our best counterterrorism partners," Brennan said.
Despite reversing Obama's decision, a bipartisan group of 28 senators led by Bob Corker, R-Tenn., suggested that defects in the bill could open a legal Pandora's box, triggering lawsuits from people in other countries seeking redress for injuries or deaths caused by military actions in which the U.S. may have had a role.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.