9/11 Widow Sues Saudi Arabia in Wake of Law Enacted over Obama’s Veto

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The widow of a man who perished in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks filed a lawsuit against U.S. ally Saudi Arabia soon after Congress enacted a law over President Barack Obama’s veto that allows Americans to sue the Arab kingdom in connection to the attacks that killed more than 3,000 more than 15 years ago.

By Friday, the 9/11 bill, enacted into law last Wednesday over Obama’s veto, was already being employed.

Bloomberg first reported the lawsuit filed Friday:

A woman widowed when her husband was killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 sued the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia just two days after Congress enacted legislation allowing Americans to sue foreign governments for allegedly playing a role in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Stephanie Ross DeSimone alleged the kingdom provided material support to al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, in a complaint filed Friday at a U.S. court in Washington. Her suit is also filed on behalf of the couple’s daughter. DeSimone was pregnant when Navy Commander Patrick Dunn was killed.

Of the 19 al-Qaeda plane hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks, 15 were Saudi nationals.

Citing concerns that the controversial law would place U.S. troops and interests at risk as well as open the United States and other sovereign countries to lawsuits, President Obama vetoed the legislation to no avail.

The GOP-controlled lawmaking body unanimously voted to overturn the president’s veto last Wednesday in an act of bipartisanship that is rarely seen in today’s polarized and gridlocked Congress. The move marked the first veto override of Obama’s tenure.

The next day, congressional leaders from both parties expressed reservations about the new law, with some lawmakers saying they were open to rewriting the bill to avoid unintended consequences.

In the Senate, 28 lawmakers sent a letter to Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) expressing concerns about the new law. The letter was aimed at convincing Cornyn and Schumer, who spearheaded the bill, to make changes to it in the future.

“We would hope to work with you in a constructive manner to appropriately mitigate those unintended consequences,” the senators wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-RY) accused the White House of taking too long to warn about the “potential consequences” of a “popular bill” as he conceded that the new law may have unintended consequences.

In a quick response, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated that Congress was shifting the blame onto the White House, saying lawmakers should have been well aware of what they were voting for and the negative repercussions that would stem from the law.

“What’s true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress — ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to our national security, and the safety and security of our diplomats and our service members,” said Earnest, referring to lawmakers who said they were clueless about the implications the 9/11 bill may have on national security.

Fox News reports:

The White House had warned that it could have a chilling effect on Saudi Arabia’s cooperation with the U.S. in fighting terrorism. Senior national security officials also argued that it could trigger lawsuits from people in other countries seeking redress for injuries or deaths caused by military actions in which the U.S. may have had a role.

Earlier this year, Congress released 28 previously classified pages from a 2002 congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that detailed possible connections between the Saudi government and the al-Qaeda plot.

The Hill reported about the declassified pages:

The long-secret pages detail evidence linking Saudi Arabia to 9/11 uncovered in the immediate aftermath, though officials warn that it is merely preliminary and was later dismissed by subsequent investigations into the issue.

There is no single smoking gun within the pages to definitively implicate any senior Saudi leaders for supporting the al Qaeda terrorists.

The New York Times (NYT) added:

It details contacts between Saudi officials and some of the September 11 hijackers, checks from Saudi royals to operatives in contact with the hijackers and the discovery of a telephone number in an al-Qaeda militant’s phone book that was traced to a corporation managing an Aspen, Colorado, home of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

The document, 28 pages of a congressional inquiry into the September 11, 2001, attacks, is also an unflattering portrayal of the kingdom’s efforts to thwart American attempts to combat al-Qaeda in the years before the attacks.


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