Friday, September 23, 2016
Obama vetoes JASTA
President Barack Obama on Friday vetoed legislation allowing families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, which could prompt Congress to overturn his decision with a rare veto override, the first of his presidency.Obama said the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act would hurt U.S. national security and harm important alliances, while shifting crucial terrorism-related issues from policy officials into the hands of the courts.
The bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives in reaction to long-running suspicions, denied by Saudi Arabia, that hijackers of the four U.S. jetliners that attacked the United States in 2001 were backed by the Saudi government.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Obama said other countries could use the law, known as JASTA, as an excuse to sue U.S. diplomats, members of the military or companies - even for actions of foreign organizations that had received U.S. aid, equipment or training. And he is right.
In a letter seen by Reuters on Friday, Republican Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, said he would oppose the override.
"My primary concern is that this bill increases the risk posed to American military and intelligence personnel, diplomats and others serving our country around the world," Thornberry wrote in a letter encouraging his fellow Republicans to sustain the veto.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that he is worried about the risk the bill poses to US troops, a sentiment echoed by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford.
The Saudi government has lobbied heavily to stop the bill, the European Union has formally opposed it and Gulf States have condemned it.
Major U.S. corporations such as General Electric and Dow Chemical have also pressed lawmakers to reconsider.
"The bill is not balanced, sets a dangerous precedent, and has real potential to destabilize vital bilateral relationships and the global economy," GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the bill.