Ex-US attorney general calls for repeal of JASTA

Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey. (AP file photo)
Updated 05 October 2016

Ex-US attorney general calls for repeal of JASTA

JEDDAH: Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey came down strongly against the so-called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The bill was enacted into law by the US Congress last week despite a presidential veto.
Speaking on Fox News TV, Mukasey said JASTA would hurt the United States “a lot more than it helps any of the families of 9/11 victims.”
He expressed his hope that the law would be repealed in light of the larger interests of the United States.
Explaining his opposition to the law, he set out the reasons for his outspoken stand.
“A couple of days ago, there was a drone strike in Afghanistan. According to the Afghans, it killed civilians and the United States said, ‘We are going to look into it.’ If the Afghans had said, ‘Well, you killed our citizens and that is an act of terror. We want you to show us what intelligence you have. We want to talk to whoever was operating the drone and whoever was working at the airbase in the Midwest. We want the name of that person. We want to go through your intelligence files and communications.’ There is no way we can allow this and it will hurt us tremendously.”
He reminded the viewers that the United States had the greatest number of serving military personnel, the greatest number of intelligence personnel and the most diplomats in the world. “There have been people who have been trying for years to get at those folks in places as diverse as Belgium, Italy, Afghanistan, and if we do something like this, it gives them the perfect excuse to do so,” said Mukasey.
He said there was no evidence linking the Saudi government in any way to the 9/11 attacks.“We have had investigations by our intelligence agencies, by Congress, and by the 9/11 Commission. They found no evidence of Saudi government involvement or the involvement of any senior Saudi officials. And so, there is no reason for this (bill),” he said.
To a question from the news anchor about assumptions that some of the information was held back from 9/11 families, Mukasey said if there was a person or some individual who had funded anything, then that person or individual could be sued.
“Those 28 pages (of a 2002 congressional report on the 9/11 attacks) don’t support any claim that the Saudi government was involved, and the notion that somehow we withheld information would require you to believe that two presidents and the whole intelligence apparatus of the United States was involved in a massive coverup conspiracy,” he said.
He defended America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. “They have helped us with enormous numbers of terrorism cases. (There have been attacks) that haven’t happened because the Saudis have been cooperative,” he said.
He reiterated that the families of the 9/11 victims deserve not only sympathy but support as well and obviously, compensation.
“But this bill is the wrong way to do it,” he said. “I am sure none of them (the 9/11 families) want to hurt the United States.”
He said he hopes that Congress will repeal the law.
“I am hoping they will, and I am hoping that they will get the president back in charge of our foreign relations,” he added.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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