The Obama Administration has been lobbying Congress to block a bill that would allow Saudi Arabia’s government to be held accountable in American courts for any role it played in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In addition to Obama’s efforts to keep information about 9/11 confidential, Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell hundreds of billions of dollars worth of its American assets if Congress passes the bill. In recent weeks, administration officials have been warning lawmakers of the bill’s potential economic fallout.
The Obama Administration’s strict opposition to the 9/11 bill has left many family members of the terror attacks’ victims outraged.
Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, expressed her discontent in an interview with the New York Times.
“It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” Kleinberg said.
In the past, families of the victims have had trouble using the courts to face elements of Saudi banks and the Saudi royal family, whom they’ve accused of funding terrorism. Their efforts were slowed by a 1976 law that awards foreign nations a certain degree of immunity from lawsuits in American courts.
The 9/11 bill would eliminate this immunity for nations found culpable of terrorist attacks that kill Americans on American soil.
So far, a 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization [Al-Qaeda].”
Critics argue that the Commission’s limited scope and wording steered the investigation away from lesser-level officials and other elements of the government that may have played a role in the terror plot.
They also point to a still-classified Congressional Inquiry in 2002, which cited evidence that members of the Saudi government played a role in the 9/11 attacks.
Nonetheless, the Obama Administration argues that limiting foreign nations’ immunity would put the American government, as well as its citizens and corporations at risk of lawsuits if foreign nations were to retaliate with their own legislation.
As for Saudi Arabia’s economic threat, some economists are calling the move an “empty threat” that would not only be difficult to pull off, but it would also cripple the Kingdom’s own economy.