To: The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate

Congress: Override Veto of Saudi 9/11 Bill

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Vote to override the veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act so 9/11 families can have their day in court against Saudi Arabia.

Why is this important?

On September 23, President Obama vetoed the bipartisan Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act [JASTA], setting up a veto override fight over whether 9/11 families will be allowed to sue the Saudi government over its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks. JASTA, which passed the House and Senate unanimously, makes no claim about the Saudi government's involvement in the attacks. It simply removes the Saudi government's legal immunity from lawsuits concerning terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support JASTA. [1]

Supporters of JASTA have charged that the Administration is simply trying to protect the U.S. government's too-cozy relationship with the Saudi government, which has recently come under long-overdue Congressional scrutiny. On September 21, 27 Senators voted to block a billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, with many citing Saudi use of U.S. weapons against civilians in the catastrophic Saudi war in Yemen. [2] House Members have introduced a companion bill to disapprove the Saudi arms deal, HJ Res 98. [3] On June 16, 204 Members of the House voted to bar the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. [4]

Administration claims that the principle of sovereign immunity is in peril if JASTA becomes law are unserious. There are already exemptions to sovereign immunity in U.S. law, including for terrorism. (We will pass over the Administration's support of the TPP, which would allow brand-name pharmaceutical corporations to sue governments in corporate tribunals to block the introduction of cheaper generic drugs.)

JASTA would simply expand the current terrorism exemption to sovereign immunity of existing U.S. law to countries like Saudi Arabia that are not on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. [5] The State Department list results from opaque determinations that include issues besides terrorism. The Administration wants to maintain the unilateral power of the executive branch to give a government a pass on support of terrorism if the executive branch - especially the Pentagon and the CIA - perceives that government to be useful in other ways. The majority of Americans have no interest in maintaining this unilateral, unaccountable executive power. And if people in other countries want to sue U.S. officials over alleged U.S. support for terrorism in their countries, those families also deserve their day in court. If that prospect might be a deterrent to Pentagon and CIA adventurism overseas, the majority of Americans will shed no tears.

Urge your Senators and Representative to vote to override the President's veto of JASTA by signing our petition.