9/11 Families Call Saudi-State Department Meeting on JASTA “A Clarifying Moment”

CONTACT: Terry Strada, (973) 945-7420

Administration Promises to “Fix” 9/11 Bill Come Amid Multi-Million Lobbying Campaign By Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

New Vernon, N.J. – Despite months of denials from the Obama Administration that it’s opposition to the U.S. Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was never directly related to its relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assured Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in a private meeting this week that the Administration is working to “fix” the legislation.

Notably, Thursday’s meeting comes at the same time that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is reportedly spending more than $1.3 million per month on at least 10 high-powered Washington lobbying firms in an effort to torpedo what’s become known as the “9/11 Bill.”  It also comes just weeks after a historic rebuke by the Obama Administration as the U.S. Senate voted 97 to 1 to override President Obama’s veto of JASTA which was the first veto override in the 8 years of his Presidency.

“What happened yesterday is outrageous.  This meeting between Secretary Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir was a clarifying moment for the thousands of 9/11 family members who have spent years seeking justice and accountability.  The fact that Secretary Kerry would lead off his public remarks not by talking about ISIS or Iraq, but instead by assuring the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that he would work to destroy the 9/11 bill, speaks volumes and is very painful for all September 11th families,” said Terry Strada, a spokeswoman for the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism and who also lost her husband Tom in the World Trade Center attacks.  “Secretary Kerry is sworn to enforce the law, not work with foreign governments to undermine it.  By siding with Saudi Arabia and working to torpedo JASTA, Secretary Kerry is snubbing his constitutional obligations and asking all of us to turn our backs on our pursuit of justice.”

“Congress passed JASTA after more than six years of careful, bipartisan negotiations to guarantee that anyone, including foreign sovereigns, can be held accountable if they indeed assist in a terrorist attack on American soil.  If the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with 9/11, then they should make that case in a court of law instead of lobbying the State Department or spending millions of dollars on high-powered lobbyists to torpedo an important bipartisan accomplishment by this Congress,” Strada concluded.


Obama Administration Has Repeatedly Denied Saudi Ties in Opposition to 9/11 Bill

Obama Administration in April…

  • Q: “What’s your response to 9/11 families who feel that, by opposing the Schumer-Cornyn legislation that the administration is siding with Saudi Arabia instead of with the victims?”
  • EARNEST: “Well, our concerns about this law are not related to its impact on our relationship with one particular country.  In fact, our concern is about an important principle of international law….” (Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 4/18/2016)

Obama Administration in September…

  • Q: “Two administrations have now said that there is no link between senior Saudi officials and the terrorists who carried out these attacks.  So given that, and you standing by those findings, why do you think it is such a risk that if these cases make it to court that they could find otherwise?”
  • EARNEST: “Our concern is not rooted in a prediction about the outcome of these individual court cases. I have no idea what judges will ultimately conclude, I haven’t reviewed the evidence that the families or others may present.  Our concern is rooted in the erosion of this foundational principle of international law.”  (White House Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 9/27/2016)

Obama Administration TODAY…

  • “Speaking after he met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Kerry said the two had discussed ways to try to “fix” the U.S. Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, known as JASTA, which grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil, clearing the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government.” (Reuters, “S. urges Houthis to keep ceasefire, discusses JASTA with Saudi,” 10/20/2016)

Secretary Kerry with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir

Additional Background

In the days since Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass, and uphold, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) after more than six years of careful, bipartisan negotiations and revisions, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has retained at least 10 Washington-based lobbying and public relations firms at an estimated cost of more than $1.3 million a monthTheir mission is simple – to spread misinformation about JASTA and pressure Congress to reverse course so that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can escape accountability for its potential involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Here is some background on this high-priced, high-powered effort:

Saudi Lobbyists Plot “Last-Ditch Campaign” To “Scuttle Legislation” For 9/11 Families

Politico: “A Last Ditch Campaign to Scuttle” 9/11 Legislation.  “Saudi Arabia is mounting a last-ditch campaign to scuttle legislation allowing families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to sue the kingdom….even if Obama receives the first veto override of his presidency, the story won’t end there: the Saudis will seek a new bill to scale back the law in the lame-duck session or in the next session, after lawmakers are relieved from the heat of the campaign, people familiar with the plans said.  ‘It’s Washington at its finest,’ one of the people said.” (Isaac Arnsdorf, “Saudi lobbyists plot new push against 9/11 bill,” Politico, 9/26/2016)

The Hill: Saudis “Adding Washington Firepower” To Scuttle 9/11 Bill.  “Saudi Arabia has hired two new lobby firms as it fights legislation that would allow victims of the 9/11 attacks to file lawsuits against the country.  Glover Park Group and Squire Patton Boggs are now working for the Saudi government, according to new disclosure forms. Both contracts were inked earlier this week. The Saudi government is adding Washington firepower amid the battle over legislation that would allow U.S. citizens to sue any other country for terrorist attacks. The bill passed both chambers of Congress unanimously.” (Megan Wilson, “Saudis Hire Lobbyists Amid 9/11 Fight,” The Hill, 9/23/2016)

Saudis Now “Employing 10 Lobbying Firms.”  “The government of Saudi Arabia is now employing 10 lobbying firms in Washington as it grapples with a new law that would allow families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue the country. The Saudis have hired King & Spalding to provide ‘advocacy and legal services’ related to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, according to a contract filed with the Justice Department. It’s the fifth firm to be hired by the country in recent weeks.” (Megan Wilson, “Saudi Arabia Hires 10th Lobby Firm,” The Hill, 10/3/2016)

Saudis “Now Paying Upwards of $1.3 Million In Lobbying Fees Per Month.”  “A review of disclosures by The Hill shows that Saudi Arabia is now paying upward of $1.3 million in lobbying fees per month — including payments to its other firms, Hogan Lovells, MSLGroup, DLA Piper, Podesta Group and BGR Group. Targeted Victory, a Republican ad firm, is working through a subcontract with MSLGroup….Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed from Saudi Arabia. Critics have long suspected that the kingdom’s government may have either directly or indirectly supported the attacks, something the Saudis vehemently deny.” (Megan Wilson, “Saudi Arabia Hires 10th Lobby Firm,” The Hill, 10/3/2016)