The Relatives of 9/11 Victims Can Now Sue Saudi Arabia

Congress recently passed a bill making it legal for families that lost members as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government.

Despite President Barack Obama’s veto of the bill, both houses of Congress voted in strong support of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (Jasta) on September 28, thereby writing it into law. This controversial move is expected to continue threatening the already diminishing relationship between the two allied countries.

Just one day later, the New York Times published an article outlining Saudi Arabia’s dismay over the bill’s passage. According to the article:

  • Saudi Arabia denounced Osama Bin Laden, previously a Saudi citizen, back in 1994
  • Like the United States, Saudi Arabia has suffered human casualties at the hands of terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists
  • After the 9/11 attacks, a congressional investigation into Saudi Arabia’s possible involvement produced no substantial evidence indicating culpability
  • Saudi Arabia has a long track-record of cooperation with the United States government on issues concerning oil, economic policy, counterterrorism, shared intelligence, and military strategy

Critics of Jasta also fear retaliation efforts could soon spread to other countries.

Although the majority (15 out of 19) of the 9/11 hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia, the others emerged from Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Will similar laws be passed allowing American families to sue these governments as well?

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In addition, Saudi Arabia not only supplies oil to the United States, but has also invested billions of dollars in military technology there. Will Saudi Arabia halt oil exportation and foreign investment in response to Jasta’s accusatory implications?

While it’s still too soon to decisively anticipate the consequences of Jasta, the law has certainly rocked the global community and is expected to cause a long-term riff in international relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.