Without tarry, Congress should pass pending legislation (S. 2040) to authorize 9/11 victims or their families to sue Saudi Arabia for alleged complicity in the international terrorist abominations.
It would be nauseating for President Barack Obama to veto the legislation as he has pledged.
A nation that would subordinate justice to courting a religiously bigoted and misogynist tyranny is a nation that has lost its way.
At present, nations listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism can be sued civilly for damages by private plaintiffs for terrorist crimes in which the state sponsor was complicit. Iran and Sudan, for instance, have been held liable for billions of dollars in damages under congressionally enacted exceptions to foreign sovereign immunity. This civil liability exposure has not caused any diplomatic ruptures. Iran recently approved the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that restricts its nuclear ambitions despite the staggering judgment awards against it issued by United States courts in favor of American victims of Iranian terrorism. Nations negotiate out of fear, not love.
S. 2040 — the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act — builds on the state sponsor of terrorism exception to foreign sovereign immunity that has operated for more than two decades without wreaking havoc in United States foreign policy. It would authorize private damages suits by Americans against any foreign nation for complicity in international terrorism that causes death or injury in the United States. Plaintiffs would be shouldered with the burden of proving foreign state complicity with judicially vetted reliable evidence. A newspaper article or Google search will not suffice.
Civilization is a battle between justice and arbitrary power. The purpose of law is to assist justice, not its enemies. By that standard, S. 2040 is long overdue. Any member of Congress who votes against the bill is a moral wretch who should be ousted from office. The legislation is necessary to enable 9/11 victims or their families to seek damages from Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 horrors it seemingly aided.
In December 2002, the Joint Congressional Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, chaired by then- Rep. Porter Goss (Florida Republican) and then-Sen. Bob Graham (Florida Republican) issued a final report. A 28-page chapter was excised and classified allegedly to protect intelligence sources and methods. According to the Joint Congressional Inquiry, the redacted pages detail “specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11th hijackers while they were in the United States.”
A wealth of informed opinion suggests that the 28 pages establish a nexus between the Saudi royal family and the 9/11 perpetrators.
On August 1, 2003, 46 Senators sent a letter to then-President Bush urging declassification. The signatories included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, incumbent Secretary of State John Kerry and incumbent Vice President Joe Biden.
Among other things, the letter elaborated: “Saudi Arabia’s banks and charities have been used to funnel money to Al-Qaeda; its madrassah schools spew hateful anti-American rhetoric to would-be suicide bombers across the Middle East; and fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis. Given these facts, protecting the Saudi regime by eliminating any public penalty for the support given to terrorists from within its borders would be a mistake.”
Saudi Arabia equals or betters the instruction of ISIS in beheadings for non-violent crimes prosecuted without due process; in the subjugation of women; in religious fanaticism; and, in war crimes against civilians in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is a cause of terrorism, not a cure. Yet the United States has sold the tyrannical kingdom approximately $100 billion in military arms or equipment since 2010 in blind imitation of our military sales to the Shah of Iran before his overthrow.
Opponents of S.2040 worry that it might provoke other nations to reciprocally expose the United States to civil liability in their courts for crimes against humanity such as torture or extrajudicial killings. But the United States should be legally accountable in such cases as long as judgments are rendered consistent with due process.
Sovereign immunity is a moral obscenity based on the tyrannical concept that “the king can do no wrong.” Not only is the king chronically wrong, but commits wrongs on an industrial scale far beyond the means of ordinary mortals. The need for law is at its zenith when the sovereign is implicated in wrongdoing.
A resounding congressional override of President Obama’s veto of S. 2040 would mark one of the finest hours in the annals of justice.