Manchester Terrorist Attack Statement

We, the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, stand united with Manchester and others around the world who are touched daily by terrorism.

Tragically, we know firsthand the depth of pain and heartache brought on by acts of terror. Our devastation is what drives our pursuit of an ideal where no other person or family will have to feel such sorrow ever again. It breaks our heart that innocent children, teenagers and others, who were merely enjoying a concert, were murdered in cold blood. All who were present, as well as their loved ones, will forever bear scars, both seen and unseen, of terrorism. As a society, it is our responsibility to ensure that all  people, especially our children, are safe and protected from harm – an obligation made difficult in today’s world where attacks on soft targets are increasingly difficult to predict.

The loss and wounds caused by terrorism never heal, and are wrenched open each and every time senseless, misguided hatred terrorizes another family or claims another life. We implore President Trump and all of Washington to do everything possible to eliminate the threat and protect our children.

Holding sponsors of terrorism accountable, and cutting off funding to terrorist groups, will make an immeasurable impact on thwarting future attacks. This is why we fought for 15 years to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which became law last year, finally allowing victims of terrorist attacks on our own soil to hold responsible parties accountable in U.S. courts. We are thankful for this step forward and will continue to see this mission through until the day all families around the world are safe from terrorism.

Terry Strada
9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, National Chair

URGENT NEWS RE: JASTA & THE U.S. MILITARY

VETERANS BEWARE! The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is trying to use you as pawns in a political game.  Under the guise of an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. and promises of meeting high-powered lawmakers, Saudi-hired lobbyists are recruiting veterans and misleading them into opposing their best interests.  Saudi Arabia is paying for these trips to overturn valued U.S. legislation that could finally hold it and other suspected sponsors of terrorism, accountable through the U.S. civil justice system.

When JASTA became law last year, the Act’s supporters, myself included made it abundantly clear that JASTA would in no way put our troops in danger.  Don’t be duped into believing Saudi lobbyists’ myths that JASTA represents a radical departure in our historical approach to sovereign immunity and that, if other countries reciprocate, our own honorable service members risk being sued.  JASTA simply allows U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments – not individuals – for supporting designated terrorist groups to commit terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

JASTA was reviewed at great length and underwent numerous revisions that addressed many of the outdated concerns JASTA opponents continue to raise, before both chambers of Congress unanimously reached a shared conclusion that the law, as it stands lies in the best interest of our country and the countless victims of 9/11.

Our veterans, perhaps more than anyone, know what it means to stand for what’s right and protect our country and its values.  JASTA aims to do just that, by stopping terrorism,  in its tracks.  Please don’t let Saudi Arabia trick you into losing sight of that goal.  Stand with us against funders of terrorism.Terry Strada, National Chair for 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism

PLEASE SEE NEWS REPORTS BELOW:

Las Vegas Review Journal – Nevada Assemblywoman caught working for Saudi Arabia and against JASTA

Vets say they were duped into helping Saudi Arabia dodge payouts to 9/11 victims

Meet 70 Americans Working for Saudi Arabia Against 9/11 Justice

EXCLUSIVE: Veterans Say Organizers Concealed Saudi Sponsorship of Their Trip to DC to Lobby for Changes to 9/11 Lawsuit Legislation

Veterans Being Misled On JASTA, Says International Law Expert

Why Terror Victims Should Sue Foreign Governments

Breitbart: A Sickening Example of Astroturf Politics and 9/11 Victims

Saudi Lobbyists Recruiting Veterans to Kill 9/11 Lawsuit


9/11 Military Families show their support for JASTA:  JASTA – Sept 11 Military Families Letter – December 2016

U.S. Vets are being used as pawns to assist Saudi Arabia’s fight against 9/11 Families:

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi Cash Is Sending Veterans On LUXURY Trips To Washington To Oppose 9/11 Law

Military/September 11 Family Support for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

Dear Senator or Representative:

We write to you as family members of those murdered in the September 11 Attacks who have a special, personal connection to the United States armed forces. We include families of military personnel killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, members of the military who survived but were severely injured in the Pentagon attack, family members of veterans killed in the 9/11 attacks, veterans who lost loved ones in the attacks, and close relatives of men and women who are active duty or retired military. Our purpose for writing is to urge you to stand firm in support of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and to protest the absurd suggestions that this law puts members of our armed forces in jeopardy.

This letter became necessary because the Saudi Government is spending more than $1.3 million monthly on a massive lobbying and public relations campaign to spread misinformation about JASTA so that Congress is fooled into gutting the law before it has a chance to work. These Saudi foreign agents have been engaged in many grotesque distortions of what JASTA does, but none of those lies has been more offensive than the claim that JASTA puts American troops at risk by limiting the sovereign immunity of foreign nations for terrorist acts. These false Saudi claims are inimical to the interests of the United States, and the Saudi campaign to promote them should be viewed as an act of aggression towards America.

The fact is that JASTA does absolutely nothing to put U.S. troops at risk, nor does it make any dramatic changes to sovereign immunity law. It provides a small exception to the limited sovereign immunity of foreign states where Americans are injured in the United States due to an act of international terrorism caused by the tortious act of a foreign state, and it expressly preserves foreign state immunity where the claim might be for an omission or act that constitutes mere negligence. In other words, JASTA is extremely narrow.

The Saudi-funded campaign would have you believe that other nations are going to enact “reciprocal” laws that target our troops, but the terms of JASTA are clear. JASTA has nothing to do with the immunity of individual foreign officials or employees, but instead is about foreign countries. It has nothing to do with foreign nations’ military actions, specifically excluding any “act of war” from its scope, and defining “international terrorism” narrowly. Neither the United States generally – and certainly not our armed forces – have anything to fear from other nations enacting JASTA laws.

Moreover, the Saudi lobbyists are surely aware that it is the official policy of the United States to negotiate Status of Forces Agreements applicable to U.S. military personnel stationed abroad that are carefully crafted to protect U.S. military personnel from being subject to claims in foreign court systems. These agreements are the tool the United States has employed since World War II to protect U.S. troops stationed abroad from the risk of suits in foreign courts – a risk the U.S. has been dealing with effectively for decades and that has nothing at all to do with JASTA. Nothing in JASTA will have any impact on their enforceability.

This outrageous Saudi claim is even more offensive given that the main threat our military men and women face is the spread of violent Islamist extremism around the globe. The Saudis have long supported the corrupt religious ideology that provided the fuel to the September 11 hijackers and continues to inspire terrorists worldwide, including ISIS. Our troops are not at risk because U.S. terrorism victims are holding foreign nations to account for supporting terrorists. They are at risk because they must fight to protect us against the Islamist fanaticism that has long found its home in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Our family members who died in the September 11 Attacks deserve better than to see Congress cowed by distortions from foreign agents of the very nation so heavily responsible for this phenomenon.

JASTA is good for America, including those serving in the armed forces. Congress was wise to ignore the Saudi distortion campaign earlier this year, and it will be even wiser to allow JASTA to work as intended.

Sincerely,

John B. Lynch
Bronx, NY
U.S. Army (ret.)
Father of Michael Frances Lynch, killed at WTC (FDNY).

Judi Reiss
Yardley, PA
Mother of Joshua Scott Reiss, killed at WTC (Cantor) and daughter of WWII veteran and granddaughter and great-niece of WWI veterans.

James S. Gray, Jr.
Manalapan, NJ
US Army (1966-68; First Lt. Military Police Corps)
Father of Christopher Gray, killed at WTC (Cantor).

Laurie Laychak
Manassas, VA
Wife of David William Laychak, civilian employee of U.S. Army killed at Pentagon and
daughter to career officer of U.S. Navy.

Edgar B. Wooley III
Rock Hill, NY
U.S. Navy (1961-1965)
Brother of David T Wooley, killed at WTC (NYFD and former U.S. Army).

David W. Carpenter, Jr.
Clayton, NC
9/11 Survivor (FDNY) and former U.S. Army.

Cheryl O’Brien
Lexington, MA
Daughter of Thelma Cuccinello, killed on Flight 11 and daughter of Albert Cuccinello, former U.S. Marine.

Douglas Connors
Quincy, MA
Brother Kevin P. Connors at WTC (EuroBrokers), who was a graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis (1969) and son of a WWII twice Purple Heart recipient in the Battle of the Bulge.

Harold Meyers
Hilton Head Island, SC

William Sergio
Lake Grove, NY
9/11 Survivor (FDNY) and Father of Active Duty US Coast Guard, William Sergio Jr.

Sylvia Carver
White Plains, MD
Sister of Sharon Ann Carver, civilian employee of U.S. Army, killed at Pentagon and sister of retired U.S. Air Force TSgt Sergeant.

Veronica Carver
White Plains, MD
Sister of Sharon Ann Carver, civilian employee of U.S. Army, killed at Pentagon and sister of retired U.S. Air Force TSgt Sergeant.

Reginald Carver
Spotsylvania, VA
Brother of Sharon Ann Carver, civilian employee of U.S. Army, killed at Pentagon and brother of retired U.S. Air Force TSgt Sergeant.

Janet Carver
Oxon Hill, MD
Sister of Sharon Ann Carver, civilian employee of U.S. Army, killed at Pentagon and sister of retired U.S. Air Force TSgt Sergeant.

Tangela Wilkes
Arlington, VA
Daughter of Sharon Ann Carver, civilian employee of U.S. Army, killed at Pentagon and sister of retired U.S. Air Force TSgt Sergeant.

Albert P. Petrocelli
Staten Island, NY
US Army (1967-1968, VietNam)
Father of Mark James Petrocelli, killed at WTC (Carr Futures).

Sarah Carrington
Devon, UK
Sister of Jeremy Carrington, killed at WTC (Cantor) and daughter of retired British Army Officer.

Devora (Pontell) Kirschner
Woodstock, MD
Wife of Lieutenant Darin H. Pontel, US Navy, killed in the Pentagon.

Rosaleen Shea
Bellerose Village, NY
Sister of Mary Yolanda Dowling, killed at WTC (AON) and niece of former U.S. Navy.

David Sedacca
Brewster, NY
9/11 Survivor (FDNY) and former U.S. Marine.

Rev. Craig W. Sincock, PhD
U.S. Army (Retired) and
Husband of Cheryle D. Sincock, killed in the Pentagon.

Joseph Ianelli
Monroe, NJ
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Father of Joseph A. Ianelli, killed at WTC (Marsh & McLennan).

Maureen Roma
Sister to Keith Roma, killed at WTC (NY Fire Patrolman) and former wife of U.S. Air Force Major.

Theresa M Frakes
Palmyra,VA
Sister of Robert Fangman, killed on Flight 175 and daughter of WWII veteran, sister of U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force veterans, and sister-in-law to two U.S. Army veterans.

Hector L. Hernandez
U.S. Air Force (ret.) and civilian contractor
Brother of Norberto Hernandez and brother-in-law of Claribel Hernandez, both killed at WTC.

Ralph Pepe
Staten Island, NY
9/11 Survivor (FDNY)
Former USMC and father of USAF.

Jim D. Richards
East Meadow. NY
Brother of Det. Claude Daniel Richards, killed at WTC (NYPD), who was also U.S. Army Airborne Ranger, and brother of U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and U.S. Navy veteran.

Bill McGinly
Vienna, VA
Father of Mark Ryan McGinly, killed at WTC (Carr Futures) and father of Andrew M. McGinley, U.S. Navy.

Renato C. Olaes
The Villages, FL
Husband of 9/11 Survivor, Dalisay S. Olaes, U.S. Army (ret.).

Holly Miller
Bigfork, Montana
Widow of Master Special Officer Craig J Miller, killed at Pentagon (U.S. Secret Service, and honorably served in the U.S. Army).

Martin Toyen
Boynton Beach, FL
U.S. Army (ret.)
Father of Amy E. Toyen, killed at WTC.

Desiree E. Bernstein
Brooklyn, New York
Former U.S. Navy
Sister-in-law of William Bernstein, killed at WTC (Cantor)

Christopher Whitford
Rock Tavern, NY
U.S. Army Reserves (Command Sergeant Major) and Brother of Mark P. Whitford, killed at WTC (FDNY)

Roger Fernandez
Manasquan, NJ
9/11 Survivor (WTC) and father of U.S. Marine.

Cheryl Desmarais
Short Hills, NJ
Wife of Mark Charette, killed at WTC (Marsh & McLennan), who was U.S. Navy veteran.

Sharon Schultz
Great Neck, NY
Wife of Karamo Trerra, killed at WTC and daughter of U.S. Army veteran.

Michael A. Conner
Boca Raton, FL
U.S. Air Force (1967-1970)
Husband of Margaret M. Conner, killed at WTC (Cantor).

Diana Winuk
Salem, SC
Former U.S. Marine
Sister-in-law of Glenn Winuk, killed at WTC (Holland & Knight).

Lisa Inzerillo
Kings Park, NY
Wife of William Krukowski, killed at WTC (FDNY) and former U.S. Marine.

Julie Chapa Field
Whispering Pines, NC
Daughter of RoseMary Chapa, DIA, killed at Pentagon.

Richard R. Field
Whispering Pines, NC
Son-in-Law of RoseMary Chapa, DIA, killed at Pentagon.

Joseph McAuley
Smithtown, NY
9/11 survivor (WTC) and Father of US Army veteran.

Natalie C. Conners
Woodbridge, VA
Daughter of Retired LTC Robert J. Hymel, USAF, killed in Pentagon.

Ed Russin
Morganville, NJ
U.S. Army National Guard
Father of Steven Russin, killed at WTC (Cantor).

Martha Carden Gilchrist
Sevierville, TN
9/11 Survivor, Pentagon
Department of Army Civilian, 35 yrs.

Robert Kobus
Morristown, NJ
U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (2000 -2012) and
Brother of Deborah Kobus, killed at WTC (Chuo Mitsui).

Joaquim T. Dearaujo
Watertown, MA
Former US Naval Reserve and
Son of Dorothy A deAraujo, killed on flight 175.

David M Yancey
Alexandria, VA
Former U.S. Navy and Husband of Vicki L Yancey, former U.S. Navy and a U.S. Navy contractor killed on Flight 77.

Joseph Shontere
La Plata, MD
Father to Angela Houtz, civilian employee of Navy, killed in Pentagon.

Patrick J. Keane
Quincy, MA
Son of Richard Michael Keane, killed at WTC (Marsh & McLennan), who was U.S. Marine (Captain).

Alice Bertorelli
Oceanside, NY
Sister to John Talignani, U.S. Army (ret.), killed on Flight 93.

Michael J. Wholey
Stony Point, NY
Father of Officer Michael T. Wholey (NY Port Authority), who was former U.S. Navy.

Paul Kirwin
New Rochelle, NY
Former U.S. Marine (Captain)
Father of Glenn Davis Kirwin, killed at WTC (Cantor).

Anthony Scolavino
Brooklyn, NY
9/11 Survivor (FDNY) U.S. Army (1979-1982) and father of Christopher Scolavino, Cadet (United States Military Academy -West Point).

Julia Shontere
La Plata, MD
Mother of Angela Houtz, Civilian employee of the Navy, killed at Pentagon.

Frank V. Racaniello
Little Neck, NY
Former U.S. Army (Active and Reserve in Vietnam era, assigned to JAG) and Father of Christopher Racaniello, killed at WTC (Cantor).

Sandra L. Racaniello
Little Neck, NY
Wife of Frank Racaniello, former U.S. Army (Active and Reserve in Vietnam era, assigned to JAG) and Mother of Christopher Racaniello, killed at WTC (Cantor).

Anne Wodenshek
Ridgefield, NJ
Daughter of Robert K Gerne USN(Ret).

Anthony Morabito
Omaha, Nebraska
Navy Submarine retired (lost his brother-in-law in WTC).

Barbara Jackman
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Husband USAR (Ret).

Charles Clyne
Lindenhurst NY
USN (Ret).

Colleen Amato
Maspeth, NY
Granddaughter of U. S. Air Force WW II veteran
Niece of U. S. Navy Officer (retired)
Niece of U. S. Army Vietnam veteran.

Curtis F. Brewer
New York, NY
Spouse of Carol Keyes Demitz (South Tower) Proud Daughter/Grandaughter of West Point Graduates; Colonel Robert S. Demitz and General Jeffrey Keyes.

Donald E. Paris
Irvine, CA 92614
Captain, USMC(Ret)
Son-in-Law of James A. Trentini, Major USAR(Ret) and Passenger on American Airlines Flight 11.

Eileen Tallon
Yonkers, NY
Mother of Sean Patrick Tallon USMC(Res) and FDNY (WTC).

Jacob D. Adams
Delphi, Indiana
USMC (2005-2014).

Jasmine Victoria
Austin, TX
Cousin (Deceased’s Nephew), US Army(Ret)
Grandfather (Deceased’s Father-in-law), US Army(Ret).

John Ashton
Woodside, NY
Son of U. S. Air Force WW II veteran
Brother of U. S. Navy Officer (retired)
Brother-in-law of U. S. Army Vietnam veteran.

Lt Col. John F. Shull, US Army (Retired)
Annapolis, MD
Brother-in-Law to Captain John Fischer, killed in NYC Trade Center rescue effort.

John V. Quigley
Fredericksburg, VA
U.S. Navy Commander (retired) Brother to Patrick J. Quigley, killed on UA75 on 9/11
Son of Patrick J. Quigley Sr (retired U.S. Army).

Kathleen Ashton
Woodside, NY
Daughter-in-law of U. S. Air Force WW II veteran
Sister-in-law of U. S. Navy Officer (retired)
Niece of U. S. Army WW II veteran
Sister-in-law of U. S. Army Vietnam veteran.

Lowell Bell
Colorado Springs, CO.
Colonel, USAF Retired.

Mary Buckley
Woodside, NY
Granddaughter of U. S. Air Force WW II veteran
Niece of U. S. Navy Officer (retired)
Niece of U. S. Army Vietnam veteran.

Manuela Nita-Vazquez
Whitestone NY
Wife of USMC(ret).

Pamela B. Trentini
Danvers, MA 01923
Daughter of James A. Trentini, Major USAR(Ret) and Passenger on American Airlines Flight 11.

Patti J. Trentini
Irvine, CA 92614
Daughter of James A. Trentini, Major USAR(Ret) and Passenger on American Airlines Flight 11.

Rosaleen DaRos
Yonkers, NY
Sister of Sean Patrick Tallon USMC(Res) and FDNY First Responder WTC.

Susan Hutchins
East Meadow NY
Aunt of active duty Marine stationed in Persian Gulf.

Thomas Gitto USMC
West Palm Beach, Florida
(lost my brother in WTC).

William Deverson
Margate, Florida
US Army (lost his Brother-in-law in WTC).

9/11 Families Applaud Tillerson’s Position on Accountability for Nations Who Support Terrorism

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Terry Strada, (973) 945-7420

New Vernon, N.J. –​ The 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism applaud Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson for his testimony affirming that nations who support terrorism must be held accountable for their actions. Tillerson’s comments echo President-elect Trump’s unwavering support of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act he spoke of during the campaign.

“Rex Tillerson’s testimony today was a clear message to the Saudis and their lobbyists that they will get no bailout from the Trump Administration,” said Terry Strada, National Chair for the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “Mr. Tillerson insisted that nations that support terrorist groups must face consequences for aiding and abetting evil. That is exactly what JASTA ensures, and is why President-elect Trump strongly supports JASTA as enacted by Congress with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The 9/11 families look forward to working with Mr. Tillerson assuming he is confirmed as Secretary of State.”

TILLERSON:
“These [terrorist] groups are often enabled and emboldened by nations, organizations, and individuals sympathetic to their cause. These actors must face consequences for aiding and abetting what can only be called evil.”​

Background:

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.”

Reince Priebus Statement on Senate Override of President Obama’s JASTA Veto

“President Obama’s veto of JASTA showed remarkable disregard for the families of 9/11 victims, and the Senate has done the right thing by overwhelmingly overriding his poor decision. Despite representing a state which suffered an attack on 9/11, Tim Kaine’s decision to hit the campaign trail instead of show up for work is a clear indication he’s more concerned with angling for higher office than fighting for our citizens. Donald Trump has never forgotten the tragic impact of that day, and he will make sure those who have suffered unimaginable losses can get the justice they deserve.” – Reince Priebus, September 28, 2016

Read More

Trump Campaign Statement on Override of President Obama’s Veto of JASTA

“President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was an insult to the families of those we lost on 9/11 and I congratulate the Congress for righting that terrible wrong. The failure of Hillary Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine, who was obviously afraid to show up to work today and stand with these Americans, is a disgrace. It demonstrates his basic inadequacy as a leader. I will never forget that tragic day, nor the thousands who were lost, and neither will Donald Trump. These family members are wonderful people who have gone through the unimaginable. They deserve the opportunity to seek justice and gain closure on this painful chapter in their lives. Now they will finally have the chance to do it.” – Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, September 28, 2016.

Read More

Additional Background:

In late November, 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism issued a statement strongly opposing efforts by Senators McCain and Graham to gut JASTA at the urging of Saudi Arabia and its foreign agent lobbyists, calling those efforts a “betrayal,” which can be read here.

###

9/11 FAMILIES STATEMENT ON PROPOSED SENATE EFFORT TO GUT JASTA

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.

Background

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.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

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.”

 

FLASHBACK….

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)

 

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.

BACKGROUND

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)

###

ANTI-TERRORISM BILL, JASTA, BECOMES LAW

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Terry Strada, (973) 945-7420

9/11 Families and Survivors grateful for Congress’ support and veto override

Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, 2016 – Fifteen years after 9/11/01 and seven years since Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was presented, Congress has finally acted, allowing the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism the opportunity to seek the truth behind the attacks and hold all those responsible for Sept. 11, 2001 accountable in a U.S. Court.

A two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House was needed to override the presidential veto. Congress exceeded that requirement, and the override came less than a week after the President vetoed JASTA on Sept. 23, 2016.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful that Congress did not let us down. The victims of 9/11 have fought for 15 long years to make sure that those responsible for the senseless murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and injuries to thousands others, are held accountable. JASTA becoming law is a tremendous victory toward that effort. We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks,” said Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.

Congress spent nearly seven years evaluating every aspect of JASTA to carefully refine its text and policies. The resulting legislation ensures that the rights of American citizens are prioritized above Saudi interests, allowing victims to hold foreign governments accountable in U.S. courts for furthering terrorism against Americans.

JASTA’s exception to sovereign immunity is only applicable in cases of international terrorism that occur on American soil, despite the President’s claims that JASTA will leave the United States vulnerable to reciprocal legislative attacks. The law expressly targets those inexcusable instances where foreign governments knowingly and willingly supply the funds and support that terrorists need in order to successfully execute their plans. The narrowly-crafted text in JASTA makes a clear distinction between acts of terrorism and war, and in no way jeopardizes diplomats, private citizens or companies, nor does it expose our military.

“Americans can rest assured knowing that JASTA is sound policy, as Congress also declared when the bill unanimously passed both the Senate (May 17, 2016) and House (Sept. 9, 2016), before finally overriding the President’s veto,” said Terry.

9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism consists of thousands of family members and survivors, seeking the truth, accountability and justice against all perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against our nation. PassJASTA.org.

###

Statement from the National Chair for 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism THIS IS STILL AMERICA

Last time I checked, we still have a President, democracy and pledge allegiance to the United States of America. And, no, we don’t live in Saudi Arabia.

As odd as this may sound, it seems that our politicians and now many fortune 500 companies may have forgotten these basic principles and are being lobbied heavily by the Saudi Arabian government through an aggressive multi-million dollar public relations and public affairs campaign.

What’s behind the Saudi lobbying that would persuade any American to defend their side instead of family members, survivors of the 9/11 attacks and the American people, you might ask? Money. Plain and simple.

A recent Politico article quoted a Washington insider as saying, “It’s Washington at its finest” when describing the back and forth intense lobbying and conversations that are being had. The article lists General Electric, Dow Chemical, Boeing and Chevron as corporations who are, purportedly, quietly responding to the Saudi lobbying efforts against the veto override for the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act – “JASTA”.  They have been asked to do the Saudis’ “dirty work” and allow them to escape culpability for their purported role in the worst terrorist attack against our nation.

Just one glance at the Saudi’s USA Embassy Twitter account and you can see the Saudi’s putting out message after message of why JASTA shouldn’t be enacted. But they are not Americans, they should not get to decide how America’s justice system will work and by what laws we abide . . . because this is still America. And, in true Saudi fashion, they are NOT truthful in their disparaging comments about JASTA. Shouldn’t it raise great concern or at the very least an eyebrow or two that the country being asked to account for its wrongdoing is so vehemently opposing that requirement?

Tomorrow is a test for the Senate and our democracy.  After already unanimously passing JASTA, will they allow the Saudis to dictate how they vote on the override, or will they pass this test in flying colors – red, white and blue?

###

Response to the Message of the President Accompanying His Veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

Late in the day on Friday, September 23rd, President Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a bill that was passed unanimously by the Senate and by the House of Representatives without a single objection. Given the measure’s unanimous passage by both the Senate and House, and following nearly seven years of careful deliberation and refinement and multiple hearings in both chambers, the President needed to make a particularly compelling showing to justify vetoing the bill. He did not make any such showing.

Instead, the White House offered the same insubstantial “reciprocity” arguments it had raised earlier this year, citing only generalized and subjective concerns about the scope of America’s presence in the world and imagined threats that simply do not stand up to scrutiny and certainly do not justify the President’s decision to continue a policy of ignoring the interests of American victims of terrorism and their families.

JASTA, as Passed Unanimously, Already Addressed the Administration’s Legitimate Concerns Through Careful, Responsive Amendments

The veto message did not acknowledge the refinements undertaken by the Congress to address the reciprocity concerns mentioned, which were negotiated at length with principals in both chambers and lawyers for the Department of State. Both the Senate and House unanimously concluded that those careful revisions had addressed any legitimate concerns and that JASTA was good policy.

Nor did the White House in its veto message venture to offer a single new rationale that would warrant reconsideration of those thoughtful judgments or even attempt to address any of the arguments members of the Senate and House have offered as to why the White House’s stated concerns are invalid, a conspicuous omission given the care Congress invested in addressing the Administration’s concerns and in perfecting JASTA to meet those concerns.

JASTA is a Narrow Measure That Applies Only to Acts of Terrorism on U.S. Soil

JASTA is a narrow measure, carefully tailored to address the unique threat presented by the sponsorship of terrorist acts on U.S. soil by state actors and to ensure accountability for such terrorist conduct. JASTA’s exception to foreign sovereign immunity applies only to acts of international terrorism occurring in the United States, and only to physical injuries on U.S. soil that are “caused by” the terrorist tort of a foreign state. It is expressly inapplicable to any military activities of a foreign government, and specifically excludes claims of mere “negligence” as well. The bill’s substantive cause of action applies only where a foreign government knowingly provides substantial assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization in relation to an attack in the United States.

All of the Administration’s stated objections and statements to the Congress and the media obscure these limitations and have generated reactions not to JASTA but to an imaginary bill that Congress has not presented to the President.

JASTA Provides Absolutely No Basis for Lawsuits Against Foreign Government Officials or Employees

As a prominent example, contrary to the White House’s repeated efforts to suggest otherwise, JASTA provides no basis for a suit against a foreign government official or employee in U.S. courts.

JASTA concerns only the immunity of foreign governments under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). As the Supreme Court unanimously held in Yousef v. Samantar, the FSIA has no bearing whatsoever on whether individual officials or employees of a foreign government may be sued in U.S. courts, an issue that is instead governed by the common law. Under the common law, foreign government officials and employees enjoy expansive immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S courts, and the State Department has virtually unchecked authority to grant such immunity in any case. JASTA does not disturb this framework under which individual officials and employees of foreign governments enjoy virtually absolute immunity from suit in our courts.

In addition, JASTA’s substantive cause of action arises under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and a civil action under the ATA may not be maintained against “an officer or employee of a foreign state or an agency thereof acting within his or her official capacity or under color of legal authority.” 18 U.S.C. § 2337(2).

Enactment of Reciprocal Laws Would Present No Risk to U.S. Interests Whatsoever

In passing JASTA unanimously, Congress correctly concluded that this portfolio of carefully crafted limitations eliminated any legitimate “reciprocity” risks. This was apparent because a reciprocal statute could not authorize claims against the United States for our military activities, as JASTA expressly excludes them. A reciprocal statute could not permit claims against individual U.S. officials, employees or military personnel, as JASTA prohibits such actions. A reciprocal statute could not allow claims against the United States for negligence, as JASTA excludes such theories. A reciprocal statute could not enable a claim against the United States for activities unrelated to terrorism, as JASTA is expressly limited to terror sponsorship activities.

For these reasons, the inescapable conclusion is that the President’s rationale for opposing JASTA has nothing to do with JASTA itself. (Indeed, his veto message does not contain a single reference to JASTA’s text.) Stated simply, if other states enact laws mirroring JASTA, it will not impact U.S. interests at all, as we do not knowingly aid designated terrorist organizations in carrying out terrorist attacks.

The President’s Veto Message Essentially Concedes that Reciprocity is Not a Concern

By claiming that his opposition to JASTA is grounded in the notion of reciprocity, the President rather remarkably denudes the very principle he purports to be defending. Under international law, the concept of “reciprocity” contemplates that “favours, benefits, or penalties that are granted by one state to the citizens or legal entities of another, should be returned in kind.” But the concerns the President expresses about JASTA have absolutely nothing to do with other states responding “in kind.”

Quite to the contrary, the speculative suits against U.S. interests that the President identifies in his veto message are all of a nature expressly prohibited by JASTA. The President’s objection is thus necessarily grounded in the notion that foreign states will not honor the principle of reciprocity in response to JASTA, but rather that one or more might instead engage in transparent acts of provocation and aggression that maliciously target the U.S. government’s legitimate activities abroad, and that cannot possibly be justified based on the text or scope of JASTA itself. If the President is correct in stating that “reciprocity plays a substantial role in international relations,” his arguments against JASTA are profoundly illogical.

Our Nation Has Nothing to Fear from Hypothetical, Hostile Lawsuits

The veto message also curiously fails to acknowledge the consequences that any foreign nation would face in so obviously violating principles of reciprocity in response to JASTA. Again, the theoretical concerns the veto message presents all envision possible retaliatory actions rather than reciprocal risks, of which there are none. As such, one would expect that the United States would convey to any governments inclined towards such acts of aggression the full range of diplomatic, economic, social, and military consequences that would follow from any such unprincipled targeting of American interests. To be sure, virtually all foreign governments would have far more to lose that to gain by maliciously targeting the United States without justification. Ours is a powerful and strong nation, and that matters a great deal in assessing the speculative risks of foreign hostility.

The “Risks’ the Administration Identifies Have Nothing to do With JASTA

Few nations will contemplate vindictive or retaliatory legislation due to the United States’s standing in the world and for other reasons, and if they were to take such a wrongheaded course, it would have nothing to do with JASTA in any case.

To the extent a foreign government is inclined to enact different laws that are designed to target the United States for our legitimate activities abroad, it can already do so, and could far more credibly justify such action based on exceptions to foreign sovereign immunity that that have existed under U.S. law for decades.

For instance, since the enactment of the FSIA in 1976, the United States has recognized a broad range of exceptions to foreign sovereign immunity, including an exception to immunity for tort claims arising from injuries occurring in the United States. If a foreign government were inclined to authorize suit against the United States for our activities causing injury in its territory, it could simply characterize our conduct as tortious and authorize claims by reference to our own tort exception.

Similarly, since 1996, the United States has also recognized an exception to immunity for acts of terrorism carried out by designated State Sponsors of Terrorism. That immunity exception is far more exotic than JASTA, insofar as it extends to injuries that occur entirely outside the United States, and treats a handful of foreign states differently from every other government in the world. To the extent the President’s objection contemplates that a foreign government might label our legitimate activities abroad as “terrorism,” such an interpretation could already be linked to our existing State Sponsor of Terrorism exception. And in any case, it would be more than perverse to decline to defend our legitimate interests in resisting state-sponsored terrorism based on fears that our adversaries might mislabel our appropriate self-defense activities as
“terrorism.”

JASTA Merely Restores Longstanding Interpretations of the FSIA’s Tort Exception and in No Way Interferes With Executive Authority

The President also is mistaken in suggesting that JASTA interferes in any respect with the role of the Executive Branch in designating foreign governments as State Sponsors of Terrorism, or that the judicial inquiry JASTA contemplates is novel or unprecedented in any respect.

Designation

First, it is well-known that the executive’s determination of which nations are on the “state sponsor” list is an intensely political one. The judicial inquiry JASTA contemplates is entirely distinct from the political judgment as to whether a foreign government should be designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. That political decision carries a range of economic, commerce and other sanctions that go far beyond a foreign state’s amenability to suit in our courts or liability for harm caused to our citizens. U.S. nationals and corporations are forbidden from conducting virtually any transactions with such states or their citizens, and the imposition of the designation effectively relegates a designated country to pariah status. For that and other reasons, the State Department has declined to impose the designation on states that cooperate with us in some respects, even where officials and agencies of those states engage in terrorism.

As a result, only Sudan, Syria, and Iran are presently designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism, and current policy calls into question whether even those designations will persist. Indeed, the White House just this week authorized U.S. companies to sell commercial aircraft to Iran, even though Iran has supported aviation-based terrorist attacks and despite the fact that terrorism judgments issued by U.S. courts against Iran in the billions remain unsatisfied. Meanwhile, nations like North Korea, which this month claimed to have successfully tested a nuclear warhead that can be mounted to a ballistic missile and days ago told the UN it is preparing for nuclear war with the United States, have been removed from the State Sponsor list altogether. And finally, Congress is well aware of the political decision making that has animated Cuba’s historical inclusion, and recent removal, from the State Sponsor list.

To the extent it ever reflected a meaningful process for identifying terror states, the State Sponsor program (and the immunity exception tied to it), has become increasingly irrelevant at the same time as the threat of foreign terrorism is growing.

Longstanding Precedent Under Current Law

Second, U.S. courts have on many occasions heard claims arising from terrorist acts of foreign governments under the tort exception. Indeed, for over thirty years following its enactment in 1976, the tort exception was consistently understood to apply to claims that a foreign state provided support from abroad for a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as reflected by the decisions allowing claims against Chile to proceed for its role in facilitating from abroad the assassination Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C., and against China for abetting from overseas the extrajudicial killing of dissident Henry Liu in California.

Consistent with these interpretations, the Departments of Justice and State filed an amicus brief in the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia in 2004, asserting that the existing immunity exception for tort claims would apply “in cases of terrorism on U.S. territory, such as the September 11th attacks.” JASTA is most properly understood as merely restoring that precise interpretation of our immunity statute.

As these facts confirm, our laws have long recognized that the courts have a proper and important role in adjudicating claims of foreign government involvement in terrorist attacks that cause harm on U.S. soil.

The Veto Message Ignores Longstanding Executive and Legislative Agreement on the Value of the Judicial Branch in Terrorism Cases

The limited judicial inquiry JASTA allows in relation to acts of terrorism on U.S. soil that kill and injure American citizens is entirely distinct and unrelated from the State Sponsor process. The courts focus on whether, for purposes of legal liability and accountability, an agent of a foreign state has engaged in a terrorist tort that enabled a specific act of terrorism in the United States and caused a particular injury.

Taking the case of September 11, the United States has never designated Saudi Arabia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but several 9/11 Commission members have said that there is credible evidence that agents of the Kingdom supported the 9/11 hijackers, and that there was a likelihood that “charities” funded and supervised by the Saudi government were deeply involved in financing and supporting al Qaeda before 9/11. From these facts, the difference between the focused judicial inquiry JASTA authorizes in regards to a specific injury and the political process that animates State Sponsor designations is most evident.

The Veto Message Completely Ignores the Paramount Role of the “Stay Provision” Included in JASTA That Will Protect Diplomatic Interests

The President’s objection on this point also ignores the absolutely essential role JASTA preserves for the Executive in disputes falling within its scope. Under JASTA’s Executive stay provision, at Section 5, litigation would proceed only where the Executive declines to engage in diplomacy to address the dispute, or where diplomatic engagements are resisted by the foreign state. In circumstances where the United States declines to pursue redress for terrorism victims injured on U.S. soil via diplomatic channels, or a foreign state refuses to engage diplomatically, providing a judicial path for accountability is necessary and appropriate.

The Veto Message Ignores that JASTA is Firmly Rooted in International Norms and U.S. Practice

JASTA’s narrow exception to foreign sovereign immunity is, moreover, firmly rooted in international norms and our nation’s longstanding approach to foreign sovereign immunity. The United States, like most other nations, long ago abandoned the outdated and unjust notions of absolute immunity predicated on the idea that “the King can do no wrong,” instead embracing the notion that states should be accountable for harm they cause in another jurisdiction in many circumstances. Under this “restrictive” approach to foreign sovereign immunity, nations throughout the world have recognized an exception to foreign sovereign immunity for tort claims involving injuries occurring in their countries, in one form or another.

JASTA itself is nothing more than a very specialized tort exception, applicable in very narrow circumstances to a particularly heinous subset of tortious conduct involving the knowing sponsorship of terrorism. Consistent with international practice, JASTA requires a very direct nexus between the terrorist tort of a foreign state and the resulting injury within the United States. It requires not only that the claims be based on an act of international terrorism occurring in the United States and involving a physical injury in the United States, but also expressly requiring that that physical injury be “caused by” the terrorist tort of the foreign state itself.

Nor, as the White House has periodically intimated, is sovereign immunity an inviolable principle. As the Supreme Court has observed since the Founding era, in the circumstances where we grant foreign states immunity from the jurisdiction of our courts, we do so only as a “matter of grace and comity.” Foreign states have “no ‘right’ to such immunity.” For obvious reasons, it is more than odd to suggest that we should afford immunity to foreign states for their involvement in aiding a terrorist attack on our soil as a matter of grace and comity, yet that is what the President’s veto message necessarily urges our Nation to do.

JASTA Continues the Longstanding Executive-Legislative Agreement that Terrorism Litigation Serves As an Important Counterterrorism Tool

The President’s veto message also suggests a sudden and unexplained lack of support in this instance for policies the United States has long endorsed as critical to our efforts to prevent the financing and sponsorship of terrorism. In particular, the President’s veto message states that enacting JASTA will not “protect Americans from terrorist attacks.”

This statement is stunning. Less than a year ago, the President’s own Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken attested in an affidavit that “imposing civil liability on those who commit or sponsor acts of terrorism is an important means of deterring and defeating terrorist activities,” and thus serves our Nation’s “compelling interest in combatting and deterring terrorism at every level.” Deputy Secretary Blinken’s testimony on this point is in keeping with empirical findings and declarations of prior Administrations and Congress for the last quarter century, which confirm that JASTA will promote our national security by deterring state sponsorship of terrorism.

Terrorism Victims’ Compelling Interests in Securing Accountability Far Outweigh the Speculative Concerns Raised by the Administration

Finally, and importantly, the President’s veto message conspicuously fails to acknowledge the compelling interest of the 9/11 families and victims in having meaningful access to their own courts to pursue accountability for the murder of their loved ones and injuries. This interest in accountability and truth is given no credit by President Obama. The Executive Branch’s resistance to releasing the notorious “28 Pages,” which meaningfully validate the factual predicate of the 9/11 families’ litigation, coupled with repeated refusals by the White House to engage in direct meetings with the families, leaves the families with no other recourse but to pursue truth and accountability through the court system, precisely as Congress contemplated when it passed the FSIA in 1976. That interest far outweighs any of the subjective concerns the President offers in his veto message for opposing JASTA.

For these and other reasons, the Senate and House should override the President’s veto with the same unanimous support they offered in passing it.

JASTA POSES NO RISK OF SUITS AGAINST OUR MILITARY PERSONNEL

JASTA provides no basis for a claim against individual foreign officials, who retain immunity from suit under common law doctrines.

JASTA’s immunity provision concerns only the immunity of foreign states under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), and has nothing to do with the immunity of individual foreign officials or employees.  As the Supreme Court unanimously held in Yousef v. Samantar, the FSIA has no bearing whatsoever on the immunity of individual foreign officials and employees from suit in U.S. courts, which is instead governed by common law immunity doctrines.  Those common law doctrines provide expansive immunity to individual foreign officials and employees, with the State Department typically having complete control over such immunity determinations.  JASTA does nothing whatsoever to disturb the expansive immunities foreign officials and employees enjoy from suit in U.S. courts under this common law framework.

In addition to the fact that they enjoy immunity under common law doctrines, JASTA’s substantive cause of action is not available in a suit against an individual employee or official of a foreign government for acts undertaken in the scope of their office or employment.

JASTA’s substantive cause of action arises under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).  A civil action under the ATA may not be maintained against “an officer or employee of a foreign state or an agency thereof acting within his or her official capacity or under color of legal authority.”  18 U.S.C. § 2337(2).

JASTA does not apply to military activities of a foreign state.

JASTA is expressly unavailable in relation to any “act of war” as defined under existing law.  This limitation, coupled with JASTA’s requirement that the claim arise from an act of international terrorism on U.S. soil, as also defined under existing law, precludes JASTA’s invocation in relation to any military activities of a foreign sovereign.

The enactment of reciprocal legislation poses no risk to our military personnel.

Given the limitations described above, the enactment by a foreign government of legislation mirroring JASTA would present no risk of lawsuits against U.S. military personnel.  To the extent the issue is instead the potential that a foreign government might enact different laws that allow claims against U.S. personnel, it would not be reciprocating but rather engaging in a transparent and unjustifiable act of aggression, and the U.S. would be expected to respond by making clear the economic, diplomatic, social and military consequences of such aggression, as it would in any other case.  Virtually all nations would have far more to lose than to gain by doing so, and the fact of the matter is that any rogue states inclined to maliciously target U.S. interests can do so already.

The United States has a program in place to compensate foreign citizens who suffer injuries as a result of noncombat activities of our military personnel abroad.

The Foreign Claims Act, 10 U.S.C. § 2734, broadly authorizes foreign citizens injured as a result of the United States’ non-combat military activities abroad to present claims against the United States for compensation for their injuries.  The statute was enacted in 1956, and established a claims commission framework for presentation and payment of claims for such injuries.  The Act expressly authorizes payments for meritorious claims for damage arising from U.S. non-combat military operations to real property, personal property, or “personal injury to, or death of, any inhabitant of a foreign country.”  Thus, the United States already has a mechanism in place to address injuries resulting from the activities of our military personnel abroad.   Given that we already pay compensation for these claims voluntarily, there would be little to gain by authorizing suits against U.S. personnel.

The United States Already is Subject to Claims Abroad for Civilian Casualties of Drone Strikes and Pays Compensation to Unintended Casualties of Those Strikes.

The United States already responds to claims in foreign jurisdictions for civilian casualties of drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, and has a program in place to pay compensation to the families of unintended casualties of those strikes.   Within the last few days, reports confirmed that the United States had agreed to pay in excess of $1 million to an Italian aid worker who was inadvertently killed, along with an American citizen, in a drone strike in Pakistan.  This most recent payment is in keeping with a program that has been in place for a number of years under which the United States compensates unintended victims of drone strikes on a voluntary basis.  The funding for these so-called solatia payments is authorized by Congress, via the NDAA.  In July, the President issued an Executive Order which was designed to systematize and improve the compensation program, titled “United States Policy on Pre- and Post-Strike Measures to Address Civilian Casualties in U.S. Operations Involving the Use of Force.”  Among other things, the EO requires relevant agencies “to acknowledge U.S. Government responsibility for civilian casualties and offer condolences, including ex gratia payments, to civilians who are injured or to the families of civilians who are killed.”

In the unlikely event some rogue state might authorize suits against U.S. personnel abroad, the United States is well equipped to defend them in any such action.

There is an entire division of the DOJ known as the Office of Foreign Litigation, whose function is to protect U.S. interests in litigation pending in foreign courts.  According to the office’s website, the cases against the United States vary from employment disputes brought by foreign nationals working in U.S. embassies, consulates, and military bases abroad to litigation arising from U.S. agency or military activities in foreign countries.”  Further, “[a]t any given time, foreign lawyers under OFL’s direct supervision represent the United States in approximately 1,000 lawsuits pending in the courts of over 100 countries.”  As these facts reflect, the United States already faces legal action in foreign courts, and has resources in place to manage such claims.