Terry Strada, the National Chair of the group 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism says that her group was “stabbed in the back” by Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, who attempted to cut key provisions recently in the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act aka JASTA, passed by Congress earlier this year after overriding a veto by President Obama.
JASTA, which took 13 years to pass, would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for their role in terror funding. U.S. intelligence has long suspected that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia financed terrorist groups.
After years of working to pass the JASTA, Terry Strada’s group believed they finally might receive justice when Senators McCain and Graham attempted to cut key provisions just before Congress adjourned for the winter recess. Strada told Radio Stranahan that McCain and Graham “were trying to sneak something in that would definitely turn everything around. It’s the defense the Saudis want to use.”
Strada explained that Saudis “want to be able to say, as you said earlier, ‘Yeah, we gave money to terrorist organizations—we’re not gonna deny it—but what they did with it isn’t our fault,’ and that’s simply not true.”
The 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism were also shocked because Sen. Graham was one of the early supporters of JASTA. Strada said, “Senator Graham was an original co-sponsor on the bill when it was introduced seven years ago. He’s been on the bill ever since. When it was being voted on to come out of the Senate back in May earlier this year he put a hold on the bill specifically to look at it close and make sure that everything was accurate and fine and when he lifted the hold, that’s sending a signal that ‘I’m fine with the bill, no issues here’. And the bill went forward.”
Strada added, “To come around now and try to do this is very, very upsetting to the family.”
Graham and McCain have been acting alone in their attempts to introduce a discretionary clause to the bill, added Strada, who said that neither Senator responded to the group’s criticism. “I haven’t heard anything from them,” said Strada.
Strada also spoke about her experience dealing with massive, wealthy foreign lobbying by Saudi Arabian causes that have opposed JASTA and repeatedly threatened the United States in the event of the bill’s passing:
So the Saudis have hired I think 14 lobby firms and PR firms in the Washington D.C. area, and they’re spending upwards of 1.4 million dollars a month to try and change our law that we already enacted. So they have this very strong lobby presence in Washington D.C.. And you know, economic warfare is always one of their threats. They threaten to not work with us any longer to fight ISIS. They’re empty threats, clearly the economic one, they would financially ruin themselves and we would barely be affected. And as far as the fight on ISIS goes they need us more than we need them, so I don’t see where that would ever come to fruition either. They’re desperate not to be held accountable for the 9/11 attacks so they are using every tool they have, which is pressuring people.
Strada makes it clear that the goals of family members of 9/11 victims working to put JASTA into legal effect are not primarily goals of retribution or revenge, but a forward-looking attempt to stem the tide of terror, saying that “even a lone wolf can be stopped if JASTA is effective and starts to stem the flow of money, because they will not have the ability to recruit like they do now. And that’s really what the families hope for in the long run, that we will see the tide turn and that Saudi Arabia, who is the biggest funder, will stop funding terrorist organizations.”
(Lone wolf terrorists) do not come out of nowhere. There’s a network around these lone wolves that’s never reported on. When they start investigating their laptops or their cellphones, they have been in contact with someone who probably a lot of times recruited them in a mosque. I’m not saying every mosque is filled with them but many, many, many are filled with people put in place to recruit and to incite, and it’s a very frightening thing. And again, if you go after the financing and the funders, eventually this lifeblood of money is dried up and gone. The ideology can’t live without someone financially supporting it, because terrorists don’t have 9-5 jobs, they don’t collect a paycheck, they are funded solely by their wealthy paymasters in the Middle East.
When asked about whether she felt Donald Trump’s presidency would be helpful to her organization’s goals of getting justice for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, Strada responded positively, “I do believe Donald Trump is on our side, he did vocally support JASTA during the election — it didn’t get a lot of coverage but he certainly was in favor of it,” and she added how disappointed she was with President Obama, saying, “We were hopeful when he took office, we thought okay, new administration. He ran on transparency, we thought we were going to get what we want — we didn’t. We barely got the 28 pages.”
In a recent article in Politico, Saudi Arabia admitted to a former U.S. official that they both funded terrorism and misled the United States about it in the wake of the 9/11 attack.