IN a move that has stunned the relatives of the 9/11 victims, Barack Obama has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to protect Saudi Arabia and four Saudi princes from being held accountable for their role in the 9/11 terror attacks
The Obama administration has asked that the Saudis be held immune under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, or FSIA. The move has outraged the families of the 9/11 victims, as there is plenty of evidence of complicity by the Saudi government and the named princes in support of al-Queda’s attack.
While the FSIA generally protects a sovereign state, there are exceptions under which its provisions can be invoked. Such interpretations are left largely to the courts to determine.
Families of the 9/11 victims have expressed outrage over the Obama administration’s filing.
In its recent friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in “Federal Insurance Co. vs. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Obama administration asked the court to deny a petition for a “writ of certiorari,” or higher court hearing, by the families of the victims of 9/11 in their effort to sue Saudi Arabia and its princes.
In the original case filed in 2006, the families of the 9/11 victims allege Saudi Arabia and four Saudi princes acting in their capacity as high-level government officials and as individuals made donations to charitable organizations with the knowledge that the charities were diverting funds to al-Queda. In response, the Saudi government invoked the FSIA as a basis to preclude a lawsuit by the 9/11 victims’ families.
In August 2008, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey in dismissing the claim against Saudi Arabia. The dismissal covered the four princes, a Saudi banker and a Saudi charity. In addition, the appeals court said that the exceptions to immunity didn’t apply since the State Department had not designated Saudi Arabia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
There appears, however, to be a possible conflict in what the FSIA allows and a portion of a U.S. statute [28USC1605(a)] which states, in effect, that a foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts if the attack and funding for it occurred in the U.S.
Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who hijacked U.S. aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia and were affiliated with al-Queda. Intelligence and past actions link the Saudi government and the four princes with al-Queda.
Peter Leitner, who has assisted terror victims’ families successfully in suing terrorist organizations for the past 12 years, stated: “In effect, the U.S. Government announced its opposition to allowing 9/11 victims and their families full access to the U.S. legal system in (the government’s) effort to protect Saudi Arabia and its princes from being held accountable for their role in the attack on the United States.”
“As power of Attorney for the family and estate of John P. O’Neill, former FBI (counter-terrorism) expert, I find it disgusting that the Obama administration has spat in the faces of these victims just as (Obama) prepares to leave for Egypt and Saudi Arabia while advocating for the closing of (the U.S. Guantanamo prison in Cuba) and giving full access to the U.S. court system to the terrorists currently imprisoned there,” he added.