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Obama Vetoes Bill Allowing 9/11 Victims To Sue Saudi Arabia


Image of President Obama via Drop of Light/Shutterstock On Friday, President Barack Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a controversial bill that would have allowed 9/11 victims and their loved ones to sue Saudi Arabia over the country’s alleged ties to the day’s terrorist attacks. President Obama had until midnight Friday night to veto the bill, which would have waived foreign sovereign immunity (foreign countries’ immunity from lawsuits) in cases involving terrorist attacks within the United States. If he had not taken action before the deadline, the bill would have automatically become the law of the land. According to a report from The Washington Post, “supporters of the legislation say they are confident they can succeed in overturning the president’s action.”

On Wednesday, LawNewz’s own Elura Nanos explained why the bill was problematic:

The many critics of JASTA point to the geopolitical disaster likely to result from an American decision to strip foreign countries of their sovereignty. While such criticism may be hyperbolic, it’s entirely accurate to note that several American allies have already gone on record voicing their disapproval of JASTA. The Dutch parliament wrote  to House lawmakers warning that it considers JASTA to be a “gross and unwarranted breach of Dutch sovereignty” that could result in “astronomical damages.” Likewise, French Parliamentarian Pierre Lellouche cautioned that JASTA would “cause a legal revolution in international law with major political consequences,” and that as one example of those consequences, he would pursue legislation that would permit French citizens to sue the United States.

And those are the remarks from countries unlikely to be sued under JASTA. The government of Saudi Arabia – the first expected JASTA defendant, has warned that it might liquidate hundreds of billions of dollars worth of American assets if the bill becomes law. Might others follow?

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday that he is “getting conflicting signals from members of Congress” about JASTA. He added that “The president’s not blind to the politics of this situation,” referring to the veto of a bill with so much support from 9/11 victims/their families.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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David Bixenspan is a writer, editor, and podcaster based in New York.