The president has nixed legislation that would allow 9/11 terror victims to sue the Saudi government. Obama said the bill undermined national security.
President Barack Obama said on Friday he was nixing a bill that was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, though Congress is expected to override the veto for the first time in his presidency.
The legislation, called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), doesn’t refer specifically to Saudi Arabia. However, Obama has warned that by allowing families of 9/11 victims to take that country’s government to court, the bill would open up the possibility of other countries doing the same to Washington.
In a statement following the veto, Obama said he had “deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” But he wrote that “the JASTA would be detrimental to U.S. national interests more broadly, which is why I am returning it without my approval.”
A group of 9/11 families said they were “outraged and dismayed” by the president’s decision. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, normally an ally of Obama, criticized the move as well. “The families of the victims of 9/11 deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn’t be thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns.”
Saudi threatens US
Congress can override the veto, as long as the move garners a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. If Congress were to go through with the override, it would be the first such instance in Obama’s two terms as president.
Meanwhile, Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have come out swinging against the bill. After the JASTA was passed by Congress, just two days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council expressed “profound worry” over the bill.
Saudi Arabia also reportedly threatened to pull billions of dollars from the US economy, although the country’s foreign minister has denied it has made any threats over the bill.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers behind the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. Families of the victims have been lobbying the US government for years to be able to sue the Gulf state’s government.
blc/kl (AP, Reuters)