On Sep. 28, Congress voted to override President Barack Obama’s decision to veto the 9/11 Victims Bill that had already been voted into law. This is the first time Congress has overridden a veto in Obama’s presidency and it’s one of the most unwise decisions in recent years.
The controversy surrounding the 9/11 Victims Bill lies specifically with the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act within the bill. It allows legal action to be taken against a foreign state at the federal level by those affected by terrorist attacks. This basically means that since Saudi Arabia may have been connected to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, those affected by the attacks can sue the Saudi Arabian government.
This only opens a door for a bleak and controversial future as those affected by the attacks take action; a bad move since Saudi Arabia may not have been connected to the attacks in the first place.
A congressional report called “28 pages” has created an indirect connection between Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the hijackers on 9/11. However, this very possible connection in no way sounds like overwhelming, irrefutable evidence.
“Bandar was in the Bush White House I would say, every other day, and in some periods, every day. It was a very, very close relationship. And I think the president and Bandar genuinely liked each other,” said former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel to CNN.
While there should be retribution for the families affected by 9/11, it seems like Congress is just searching for a scapegoat so that the public has something to rally behind.
The CIA and FBI already concluded that there was no evidence that anyone from the Saudi royal family had anything to do with 9/11. Is it really necessary then that their government be held responsible? If there is no concrete connection between the attacks and Saudi Arabia, then we shouldn’t allow citizens to make civil claims against their government.
But with overriding Obama and allowing this law to be in effect, the U.S. is allowing its citizens to make dangerous, serious claims against the Saudi government even though it maintains that it is not connected to the crime.
The law is very specific in who it effects, but very vague in the process of how anything can get done. How much can one person make civil claims for? Can a citizen make claims against a foreign entity that happens to be one of America’s allies? There will be a plethora of problems surrounding its ambiguity and lack of clarity.
While it does specify that this excludes acts of war, nothing is stopping another country from claiming that whatever action was taken does not fall under that definition, but the definition of terrorism.
It’s easy for the U.S. Government to say those lost to collateral damage in the Middle East were part of an act of war, but those living there might easily disagree.
Furthermore, what about groups funded by the U.S. Government that may commit acts of terror? The CIA was accused in aiding an Italian right-wing terrorist organization that bombed a bank in Milan, Italy.
Even if an American citizen had family in Italy that died during the bombing, they could not make a claim against their own government, according to this U.S law.
The law specifies that the acts that victims can make claims for must happen inside the United States. This means that if loss of life occurs outside of the country caused by the U.S. Government that affects U.S. citizens, residents here cannot make claims.
With this overturn, the U.S. has opened a gateway for even worse foreign relations and more confusing precedents.