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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The 9/11 Lawsuit Argument: Echoes of the Past

The 9/11 Lawsuit Argument: Echoes of the Past

by Thomas W. Lippman
Now that Congress had made it possible for families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, the United States may find out if all the dire consequences predicted whenever this issue has been raised in the past will actually come about.
Efforts to amend the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities act in response to the grievances of U.S. citizens go back at least to the 1980s. Then as now, the target was Saudi Arabia. Leonard Garment, an influential Washington lawyer and lobbyist representing two men who had been tortured in Saudi jails, tried to persuade Congress to amend the law to allow them to sue. He came close to succeeding, but in the end Congress allowed legal action only against nations on the State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. Saudi Arabia has never been on that list.
At the time the State Department convinced lawmakers that opening the door all the way would subject the United States and American officials to similar legal action in foreign courts and could be a threat to members of the U.S. Armed Forces carrying out their missions—the same argument Congress rebuffed this time.
Similar arguments were raised in the 1990s when the world’s nations were establishing an international court to prosecute war criminals.

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