US Congress Passes JASTA Bill

US Congress passed legislation allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts. The legislation passed unanimously by voice vote.

House Resolution 3815, also known as the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” or JASTA, creates an exception to sovereign immunity created by a 1976 law, thus allowing US citizens to sue foreign countries for Terrorismthat kills Americans on US soil.

The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in May, now heads to President Obama’s desk.

The White House has hinted strongly it will veto the measure. Obama has lobbied fiercely against it, arguing it could both strain relations with Saudi Arabia and lead to retaliatory legislation overseas against U.S. citizens.

The president has 10 days to either sign or reject the legislation before it becomes law.

Under current U.S. law, victims may sue a country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, like Iran. The bill would allow citizens to sue countries without that designation — like Saudi Arabia.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 hailed from Saudi Arabia. Critics have long suspected that the kingdom’s government may have either directly or indirectly supported the attacks.

Impact on U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations:

The bill has raised tensions with Saudi Arabia. When the bill was introduced, Saudi government threatened to sell up to $750 billion in U.S. Treasury securities and other U.S. assets if the bill is passed.