Saudi Arabia 9/11 Lawsuit Filed After Congressional Veto Override

The family of someone who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks filed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia last week, coming only days after Congress overrode a presidential veto, allowing U.S. citizens to sue the country directly over its alleged involvement.

A large number of similar Saudi Arabia 9/11 lawsuits are likely to be filed in the coming weeks and month, on behalf of individuals who were injured during th terrorist attacks, as well as first responders and business owners impacted by the catastrophe.

The cases against the foreign government are now permitted under a new law, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which was designed to open the door for litigation against foreign state governments due to an international act of terrorism, or a “tortious act or acts of the foreign state, or of any official, employee, or agent of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment or agency, regardless where the tortious act or acts of the foreign state occurred.”

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President Barack Obama originally vetoed the law, warning that it would open the door for similar litigation against the United States abroad, and put the country’s interests and personnel at risk. However, only weeks after the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to override the veto, allowing the bill to become law.

A complaint (PDF) filed by Stephanie DeSimone in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on September 30 is believed to be the first Saudi Arabia lawsuit brought in the wake of the new law.

DeSimone’s husband, Patrick Dunn, was a commander in the U.S. Navy and died during the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. She was two months pregnant at the time, and their daughter, Alexandra DeSimone, a minor, is also listed as a plaintiff.

The lawsuit alleges that the terrorist organization Al Qaeda was only able to successfully conduct the attack because of support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Al Qaeda’s ability to conduct large-scale terrorist attacks was the direct result of the support Al Qaeda received from its material sponsors and supporters, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the lawsuit states. “The Kingdom willingly provided material support to Al Qaeda for more than a decade leading up to September 11, 2001 with knowledge of Al Qaeda’s intent to conduct terrorist attacks against the United States, and an awareness that Al Qaeda would use the support provided by the Kingdom to achieve that objective.”

DeSimone alleges that Al Qaeda’s existence and ability to function depended primarily on money and other material support it received from Saudi Arabia, as well as charities and other organizations acting as agents of the kingdom.

The lawsuit details numerous funding streams and agents who were allegedly connected both to the Saudi government and Al Qaeda, saying that the country not only helped fund the terrorist group, but provided safe refuge for its agents, helped spread its ideology, and advocated for attacks on the West.

Of the 19 hijackers linked to the terrorist attacks in Arlington, Virginia, New York City and Pennsylvania, 15 were Saudi citizens. Formerly classified Congressional reports, released earlier this year, also linked some hijackers directly to individuals suspected of being Saudi intelligence agents.

The revelation sparked a push for the new legislation, and attorneys expect this to the be first of many Saudi Arabia lawsuits filed by families of 9/11 victims, first responders and business owners impacted by the attacks

Saudi officials, President Obama, and some others have said that the new law will erode sovereign immunity and have unforeseen consequences. A number of Senators who voted for the law are now saying they are reconsidering, and may seek to rewrite portions of the legislation.


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