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He expressed his hope that the law would be repealed in light of the larger interests of the United States.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.

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 52 min 17 sec ago

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

AD DIRIYAH: The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”