Search form

Last updated: 47 min 37 sec ago

You are here

Saudi Arabia

Repeal JASTA, New York Times urges US Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, second from left, and his colleagues listens to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Sept. 13, 2016, file photo. (AP)

JEDDAH: The New York Times has urged the US Congress to repeal the so-called 9/11 Bill or the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) before it could do more damage.
The US Senate and the House of Representatives delivered a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama on Wednesday by overriding his veto of the bill that was meant to allow the families of the 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
In its editorial, America’s leading newspaper and one with worldwide influence, damned what it called the “baldfaced admission of gross ineptitude” after reports that Republican leaders were discussing the possibility of changes to the bill.
The editorial referred to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s statement on Thursday that “nobody had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships, and I think it was just a ball dropped.”
The New York Times was livid. “Instead of putting the responsibility entirely where it belongs — on Congress — McConnell went on absurdly to blame Obama for failing to communicate the potential consequences of the bill,” it said. “In fact, Obama, the national security agencies, the Saudi government, retired diplomats, the European Union and big corporations had all bombarded Congress with warnings. Yet lawmakers ignored all of them in a rush to pass the legislation and then, this week, override Obama’s veto by a large bipartisan vote.”
In its sharp rebuke, the editorial said: “Congress seems determined to set a new standard for craven incompetence.”
The New York Times pointed out that the aim of the bill — to give the families their day in court — “is compassionate, but it is already complicating the American relationship with Saudi Arabia, and it could expose the American government, citizens and corporations to lawsuits abroad.”
The newspaper said while the families believe that Saudi Arabia allegedly played a role in the attacks because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, “an independent American commission that investigated the attacks found no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials directed or financed the terrorists.”
The newspaper said it is not clear what the lawmakers can do to mitigate the problems with this “ill-conceived” law.
The Saudi government, in a statement, said it hoped Congress would “correct this legislation” in its lame duck session after the November election.
Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has suggested that changes could include limiting suits to the Sept. 11 attacks or creating a separate legal tribunal.
But, as the New York Times pointed out, foreign governments could still retaliate by taking similar steps, such as carving out sovereign immunity exceptions for specific incidents of importance to them — perhaps America’s mistaken bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in 2015 that killed 42 people.
“Congress has once again embarrassed itself and harmed American interests in the process,” said the newspaper. “The only way to fix this law is to repeal it.”

MORE FROM Saudi Arabia