The United States Congress has overridden the Presidential veto on legislation allowing the families of those killed in the terror attacks of September 11th 2001 to sue the Saudi Arabian government.
Though Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied accusations that it had supported the 9/11 attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Similarly, the family of the plot’s architect, former Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, is said to be intimately connected to the Saudi Arabian royal family.
This is the first time Congress has overridden the Presidential veto, voting overwhelmingly in favor of the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” (JASTA) which had passed the House and Senate without objection earlier this year.
The override will come as welcome news to the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 attack, who have been protesting against the override outside the White House and capitol. Terry Strada, whose husband died in the attacks, said in a statement, “We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks,”
Commenting upon Congress’ decision to override his Veto, Obama said he felt lawmakers had made a “mistake”, and that the new legislation set a “dangerous precedent,” whereby individuals could now sue the United States for actions committed on foreign soil. President Obama’s concerns were echoed by many in the United States’ defense leadership, with CIA Director, John Brennan agreeing that the bill carried “grave implications” for national security.
He added: “The downside is potentially huge.”
In July, the US Congress released a tranche of documents highlighting potential links between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi officials. The 28 pages of the report made public by Congress in the summer came from the 2002 investigation into potential Saudi ties to the 9/11 attack. “According to various FBI documents and CIA memorandum,” the report read, “some of the September 11 hijackers, while in the United States, apparently had contacts with individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government,”
Though none of the links between the attackers and Saudi officials have been verified, the report, in tandem with the override of the Presidential Veto, is likely to have long lasting implications for relations between the US and one of its longest standing allies in the Arab World.