On Tuesday, over the protestations of the Obama administration, the Senate unanimously passed a bill allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any involvement it may have had in the plot to perpetrate those attacks.
Victims’ families have tried to sue members of the Saudi royal family and associated charities before, the New York Times reports, but have largely been thwarted by a 1976 law that grants foreign countries some immunity from lawsuits filed in American courts.
The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the legislation, and President Obama has threatened to veto it if it passes in the House.
The push to pass the bill comes amid renewed interest in the so-called 28 pages: a still-classified portion of a 838-page Congressional report from 2002 that some say contains information linking high-ranking Saudi officials with the 9/11 terrorists. (Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudi.)
President Obama is not the only one to criticize the legislation. During a visit to Washington in March, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told lawmakers and administration officials that if the legislation passed, Saudi Arabia could start selling off $750 billion in Treasury securities and assets in the United States. Even so, economists tell the Times that’s an unlikely outcome.
“For the sake of the families, I want to make clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that every entity, including foreign states, will be held accountable if they are found to be sponsors of the heinous act of 9/11,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democrat who co-sponsored the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, said Tuesday.
“If the Saudis did not participate in this terrorism, they have nothing to fear about going to court,” he said. “If they did, they should be held accountable.”