FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Terry Strada: (973) 945-7420
9/11 FAMILIES STATEMENT ON PROPOSED SENATE EFFORT TO TORPEDO JASTA
(Washington, D.C.) – The 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism today expressed their firm opposition to proposed legislative language offered by U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain that would effectively gut the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), overwhelmingly passed by Congress in September.
In a speech on the Senate floor this afternoon Senator Graham pitched this new language as a simple “caveat” but in reality he is proposing to amend JASTA to add a specific jurisdictional defense Saudi Arabia has been relying on for the last 13 years to avoid having to face the 9/11 families’ evidence on the merits. Moreover, Senator Graham and Senator McCain mischaracterized JASTA in several material respects during their speeches today. For example, Senator Graham argued that JASTA is deficient because it does not require that a foreign state have “knowingly” supported terrorism in order for liability to attach, but in fact JASTA’s liability provision expressly requires that the foreign state have “knowingly provided substantial assistance” to a designated terrorist organization in order for liability to arise. Senator Graham also suggested that adding a discretionary function provision to JASTA would protect the US from claims for drone strikes in Pakistan, which is simply incorrect given that Pakistan has made clear its view that domestic and international law prohibit those strikes.
Notably, Graham’s and McCain’s efforts come in the wake of a massive lobbying campaign by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is now employing roughly a dozen Washington lobbying firms at a cost of more than $1.3 million per month.
“In April of this year, Senator Graham met with 9/11 family members from the September 11 Advocates Group and told them that he supported our cause 100%,” said Terry Strada, National Chair for the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “Senator Graham is now stabbing the 9/11 families in the back. He and Senator McCain are seeking to torpedo JASTA by imposing changes demanded by Saudi Arabia’s lobbyists. We have reviewed the language, and it is an absolute betrayal.”
“The 9/11 Families are fortunate to have Senators John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer to block this action in the Senate, and we take comfort that President-elect Donald Trump strongly supports our cause. The President-elect has made his support for JASTA crystal-clear, and there is zero risk that he will support this kind of backroom backstabbing of the 9/11 families,” Strada concluded.
The 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism recently learned from official reports required by the Foreign Agent Registration Act that Senator Graham and his staff were communicating with Saudi Arabia’s lobbyists during the weeks before he placed a hold on JASTA in April, and thereafter. Notably, earlier this year the bill was amended to address the precise concerns Senator Graham raised in his speech today, and at his request, and then it passed the Senate unanimously. The House then passed the Senate bill without a single dissent, following a full hearing on the Senate text. Senator Graham later voted to override the Obama veto in September, as did 96 other Senators.
In fact, the language Senators Graham and McCain presented today is nearly identical to a proposal drafted and circulated by lobbyists working as foreign agents for the Saudi government in September. This is not a compromise and it has absolutely nothing to do with protecting American interests: it is a direct assault on the 9/11 families, aimed at killing off the lawsuits against Saudi Arabia.
In September, when President Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, then-candidate Donald Trump issued a stinging rebuke of the President’s rejection of the pursuit of justice by families and victims of our nation’s most devastating terrorist attack. Congress went on to override the President’s veto, with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. President-elect Trump’s support for JASTA is truly appreciated, and the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism are confident that he will continue to aid the efforts to seek justice for those who were injured and brutally murdered in the attacks.
Below is the statement issued by Donald Trump on President Obama’s veto of JASTA, on September 23, 2016:
“President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is shameful and will go down as one of the low points of his presidency.
This bipartisan legislation was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and would have allowed the families of the nearly 3,000 people slaughtered by radical Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001, the opportunity to seek justice in an American court of law…
That President Obama would deny the parents, spouses, and children of those we lost on that horrific day the chance to close this painful chapter in their lives is a disgrace…
These are wonderful people, and as a lifelong New Yorker, I am saddened that they will, for now, not have that opportunity. If elected president, I would sign such legislation should it reach my desk.”
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)
New York Times: Saudi Arabia “Has Called In Reinforcements.” The Saudi government, which is now focused on lobbying Congress not to override Mr. Obama’s promised veto, expected on Friday, has called in reinforcements. Among them are former Senators John B. Breaux, a Democrat, and Norm Coleman, a Republican. The Saudis have also added Sphere Consulting, a top public relations firm, to their already high-powered mix of lobbyists and consultants, including the Podesta Group, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and the BGR Group. (Julie Hirschfield Davis, “Fight Between Saudis and 9/11 Families Escalates in Washington,” New York Times, 9/21/2016)
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)