WASHINGTON: The US senate on Tuesday passed a legislation that will allow American victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government for alleged complicity.
The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for passage. But it is expected to go no further even if approved as the White House said President Barack Obama will veto it.
His spokesman Josh Earnest said “it’s difficult to imagine the President signing the legislation” as it impairs the principle of “sovereign immunity”, which is critical to US national security.
It will expose America to similar suits around the world, he added, as the “US is more engaged in activities in other countries than any other country in the world”.
The Saudi government has threatened to pull out all investments in America and sell $750 billion in US treasury securities if the legislation is ever signed into law.
All but four of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and many Americans have long suspected officials and citizens of that country of involvement, but with no evidence yet.
Much of the suspicion is centered round 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report that have remained confidential despite repeated calls for their release.
Some families of the victims tried to sue the Saudi government, but without any success as foreign governments enjoy some immunity from lawsuits under a 1976 law.
The Senate bill seeks to make an exception, allowing foreign governments to be sued for involvement in terror attacks that claimed American lives.
“These families have lit a candle,” Senator Charles Schemer of New York, who is one of the two sponsors of the bill, told a news conference.
He added: “Their mission is not just to bring justice to themselves but to send a loud message to foreign governments. If you help create terrorism on American soil, you’re going to be brought to justice.”
Schumer and Republican senator John Cornyn, the other sponsor, called the Saudi threat “hollow”. Cornyn said: “They’re not going to suffer a huge financial loss just to make a point.”