US Congress Passes Contentious 9/11 Bill

US Congress Passes Contentious 9/11 BillUS Congress Passes Contentious 9/11 Bill

A bill that would allow families of the 9/11 attack victims to sue the Saudi Arabian government in US federal court is heading for President Barack Obama’s desk after the House of Representatives passed the measure with a seemingly unanimous vote on Friday.

The measure was approved on the last working day before the 15th anniversary of the worst terror attacks in US history. The attacks on September 11, 2001, killed more than 2,600 people from more than 50 countries, although the vast majority were Americans, AP reported.

“We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes, denying justice to the victims of terrorism,” said Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of House Judiciary Committee.

But President Obama has vowed to veto the bill on the grounds that it violates the fundamental principle of sovereign immunity, which protects nation states from both civil and criminal lawsuits.

If US citizens can sue foreign governments, Obama has said, then other countries will pass laws allowing their citizens to sue the US government.

“This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity,” said White House Spokesman Josh Earnest back in May, after the Senate unanimously approved the bill.

However, Obama did not veto the US Supreme Court ruling against Iran on April 20 that about $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets be turned over to American families of people killed in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran.

Iran filed a lawsuit in June against the US at the International Court of Justice demanding compensation over the seizure.

The seemingly overwhelming support for the bill in both houses of Congress suggests enough support to override a presidential veto, which requires a two-thirds majority vote. If it comes to pass, it would be the first veto-override of Obama’s presidency, though it would likely not occur until after the November election.

Saudi Arabia had threatened to pull billions of dollars from the US economy if the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act becomes law. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir has denied such threats, but he warned that investor confidence would be shaken if such a measure was enacted.

Two months ago, Congress released 28 declassified pages from a congressional report into the 9/11 attacks that sparked renewed speculation about links between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, or representatives of the government.