The White House has indicated that President Barack Obama would veto legislation allowing Americans to hold the Saudi ruling family accountable in US courts for any role in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Given the long list of concerns I have expressed … it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the president would sign the bill as it’s currently drafted,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.
The bill, proposed by Democratic senator Chuck Schumer and Republican John Cornyn, if passed, would take away immunity from foreign governments in cases “arising from a terrorist attack that kills an American on American soil.”
Earnest said the legislation could put Americans at legal risk overseas if other nations were to pass reciprocal laws that remove foreign immunity in their courts.
“It could put the United States and our taxpayers and our service members and our diplomats at significant risk if other countries were to adopt a similar law,” he said. “The whole notion of sovereign immunity is at stake.”
Meanwhile, by continuing to designate Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, the White House has demonstrated that it has no compunction whatsoever to letting private US citizens use the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act in conjunction with the related body of politically motivated US Federal Court jurisprudence to impose liability on Iran for terrorist acts allegedly carried out by Saudi nationals.
‘Don’t try to destabilize global economy’
Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell off some $750 billion of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes the bill, according to The New York Times.
Earnest warned the Saudi government against taking such a step.
“A country with a modern and large economy like Saudi Arabia would not benefit from a destabilized global financial market, and neither would the United States,” he said.
If the Republican-dominated Congress passed the bill, American courts could order freezing the assets held by Saudi Arabia in the United States.
President Obama is expected to land in Riyadh on Wednesday. It’s not clear whether the issue will be discussed during the visit.
Earnest also said he is not sure if Obama will raise the issue during a meeting with Saudi Arabian King Salman.
“If this issue were to come up… the potential consequences of rolling back this core principle of international law is how the president would explain our position to his counterparts,” he said.
‘Declassify 9/11 report on Saudi role’
A number of US lawmakers have called on the White House to declassify documents that shed light on Saudi Arabia’s possible complicity in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The former congressmen say the 28-page classified document proves two Saudi nationals who were behind the 9/11 attacks received support and assistance from Riyadh while in the United States.
The 28-page report is part of a larger Congressional report on 9/11 released in 2002 and called the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities, which was conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Reports say the Obama administration and intelligence officials are now weighing whether to declassify the remaining 28 pages.
Former US senator and governor of Florida, Bob Graham, said last week that the US should declassify the redacted pages, which could implicate Saudi Arabia in the attacks and prove that there existed “some support from within the United States.”
‘Saudi threat reprehensible and revealing’
Graham said on Sunday that Saudi officials are opposing the legislation because they are worried the kingdom’s ties to al-Qaeda terrorists would be revealed during a possible trial.
In addition, he said Saudi Arabia’s threat to pull hundreds of billions of dollars from the US economy “says something about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11.”
“I think the action by Saudi Arabia is reprehensible and also very revealing,” Graham said. “They are so fearful of what would emerge if there were to be a full trial. That says something about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11.”
The September, 11, 2001 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.
US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists – 15 of them were Saudi citizens — but many independent researchers have raised questions about the official account.