This week the House and Senate are expected to vote on whether to override the president’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA). JASTA would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia over allegations Saudi officials were linked to the 9/11 attacks. The bill makes no judgment about Saudi Arabia’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. It just removes Saudi Arabia’s immunity from lawsuit over support for terrorist attacks on US soil. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support the bill.
Under current US law, Americans can sue Iran for terrorism in US courts, but they can’t sue Saudi Arabia for terrorism in US courts, because Iran is on the State Department’s “state sponsor of terror” list and Saudi Arabia is not. The State Department is allowed to take “broader US foreign policy interests” besides concern about support for terrorism into account in forming its list — like the Saudi government’s cozy relationship with the CIA.
In January, The New York Times reported that:
“The support for the Syrian rebels is only the latest chapter in the decades-long relationship between the spy services of Saudi Arabia and the United States, an alliance that has endured through the Iran-contra scandal, support for the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and proxy fights in Africa. Sometimes, as in Syria, the two countries have worked in concert. In others, Saudi Arabia has simply written checks underwriting American covert activities …
“… the long intelligence relationship helps explain why the United States has been reluctant to openly criticize Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, its treatment of women and its support for the extreme strain of Islam, Wahhabism, that has inspired many of the very terrorist groups the United States is fighting.”
To The Times’ list of things that the US has been reluctant to criticize Saudi Arabia for because of the CIA’s cozy relationship with the Saudi government, we can add targeting civilians in Yemen with US weapons in violation of US law. Last week, 27 senators voted against sending more weapons to Saudi Arabia to use against civilians in Yemen. Why didn’t more senators vote against sending more weapons to the Saudis? In part, because “the Saudis are our friends,” which really means, “because the Saudis are the CIA’s friends.”
If you think there should be one standard for judging governments on support of terrorism, regardless of how cozy the government in question is with the CIA, why not call your representative and urge them to vote to override the veto so the 9/11 families can have their day in court? Or, if you can’t call, you could send your representative an email.