JASTA is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act
Parker Waichman LLP is investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have suffered physical injuries, medical conditions, and property damage as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, in addition to surviving families of individuals killed on 9/11.
JASTA, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (S.2040, Public Law Number 114-22 [09/28/2016]), enables families of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to bring lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for any alleged ties to, and sponsorship of, the Islamic extremist terrorist attacks. Senator John Cornyn (Republican-Texas) sponsored JASTA and introduced JASTA on September 16, 2016. JASTA became Public Law No.: 114-222 on September 28, 2016.
JASTA amends the federal judicial code, in part, to narrow foreign sovereign immunity from United States jurisdiction and authorizes federal court jurisdiction over a civil claim against a foreign state for physical injury to a person or property or death that occurs inside the U.S. due to an act of international terrorism or a tort committed anywhere by an official, agent, or employee of a foreign state who is acting within the range of employment. International terrorism does not include an act of war and federal court jurisdiction does not extend to a tort claim based on an omission or an act that is merely negligent. A U.S. national may file a civil action against a foreign state for physical injury, death, or damage as a result of an act of international terrorism committed by a designated terrorist organization.
At least 2,300 families of victims and first responders brought a federal lawsuit against Saudi Arabia over allegations that it funded the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and supplied Osama bin Laden and his terrorists with “cover,” according to Newsday. The personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit was filed in March 2017 the United States District Court in Manhattan.
Allegations include that Saudi Arabia was a “vital player” in funding al-Qaida along every point in the terrorist attacks; that using various Saudi state-run nonprofits, some run by bin Laden’s friends and a brother-in-law, senior Saudi officials, and al-Qaida operatives, millions of dollars were sent through an intricate system of transfer offices and businesses with al-Qaida terrorists as the final recipients; that Saudi Arabia ordered government employees, including diplomats to assist the 19 hijackers once they landed in the U.S.; and that the hijackers included 15 Saudi Arabian citizens. Once in the U.S., Saudi Arabia allegedly funded safe houses for the hijackers, providing bogus passports, weapons, cash, and equipment, according to Newsday.
“We’re going to find out what actually happened on 9/11,” plaintiff James Riches, a retired Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Deputy Chief from Brooklyn, New York told Newsday. Retired deputy chief Riches was a 9/11 responder. Six months after the attack, Riches carried out the body of his firefighter son. He said the lawsuit should provide answers adding, “If [Saudi Arabia] helped the terrorists commit terrorist acts on American soil … they’ll be held accountable.” The lawsuit also alleges that the Saudi Arabian ties to the al-Qaida attacks against the United States go back long before the September 11th attacks. An attorney involved in the case noted that the hijackers did not have money or means for the homes they lived in, flying lessons, and other activities while they were on U.S. soil.
Numerous 9/11 survivors’ families are seeking a complete accounting of any potential Saudi action and involvement in the attacks. The plaintiffs allege that the Saudis “intentionally aided, abetted, and counseled al-Qaida,” that Saudi officials directed millions of dollars to al-Qaida through bin Laden’s friends, government employees, and so-called government-controlled “charity” organizations. The laundered money-some mixed with Saudi embassy funds in embassy bank accounts-assisted Afghanistan camps that trained the hijackers, paid al-Qaida operatives instructed by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and other government agencies, according to lawsuit allegations, Newsday reported.
Lawsuit allegations also include that, from 1995 until the terrorist attacks, a senior Saudi diplomat at the embassy in Washington, D.C., disguised a Saudi employee as “a religious worker” for a San Diego, California-based nonprofit organization; from 1998 to September 11, 2001, the agency sent more than $350,000 to al-Qaida by a money transfer agency that was utilized by the terror group; and that some funds were sent to the transfer agency’s office in Karachi, Pakistan, which was founded and controlled by al-Qaida, according to Newsday.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the terrorist attacks’ mastermind, was in Karachi dispensing approximately $400,000 in cash to the hijackers, according to allegations, as well as that, in the months before the 9/11 attacks, Saudi “employees and agents” moved cash to al-Qaida through a mosque in Culver City, California, near the Los Angeles International Airport, and other “organizations, individuals, and/or private businesses.” The lawsuit also alleges that, between May 2001 and September 11, 2001, U.S. officials sent “urgent requests for assistance from Saudi Arabia” to help in locating an individual in the country who maintained contact with a high-ranking al-Qaida operative who was involved in the planning of an upcoming and unspecified al-Qaida attack on the U.S. “The September 11th Attacks could not have occurred absent the knowing and substantial assistance provided to al-Qaida by Saudi Arabia,” the complaint indicates, according to Newsday.
Retired FDNY Deputy Chief Riches pointed out that the money is not the concern. The plaintiffs seek do discover the Saudis’ role and help to ensure the world is safer. “We’re going to find out how connected they were to the money they donated to these terrorist funds,” he told Newsday, “and we have to get that to stop. Otherwise it’s going to happen to other people, what happened to us.” He told WPIX-11 that, “The Obama and Bush administrations have done nothing but fight the 9/11 families for 15 years…. The United States government took the side of the Saudis over the 9/11 families.”
There was evidence in formerly classified papers from the 9/11 Commission report that high-ranking Saudi officials provided money to support two Saudi-born hijackers who were living in San Diego. So-called “handlers” connected to the Saudi government were allegedly financially assisting the hijackers during an 18-month period.
According to BusinessInsider.com, JASTA will provide relatives of the victims of the terror attacks the ability to file a civil lawsuit against a sovereign nation in federal court. Civil lawsuits filed against foreign nations are tossed out of federal court on the grounds that most foreign nations, excepting those classified as sponsors of terrorism by the State Department, are granted sovereign immunity. This gives those nations broad protection against lawsuits and claims made against them. JASTA, in part, expands the list of exceptions in the Foreign Immunities Act and permits American citizens to file civil law suits against “countries that knowingly or recklessly contribute material support or resources” to organizations that commit acts of terror on U.S. soil.
Saudi Arabia Gave the U.S. $360 Billion in Deals; They Want Trump to Take Back JASTA
This week, President Donald Trump made a series of deals with Saudi Arabia on a two-day May 2017 visit. However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would like him to repeal what it considers to be a controversial 2016 law that enables families of 9/11 terrorist attack victims to bring lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for their deaths, according to the McClatchy DC Bureau. Saudi officials have been discreetly lobbying the administration and Congress to overturn JASTA.
At issue is that Trump supported the bill and is now unable to do much to change that; however, the Saudis believe that “the man they consider the ultimate salesman will make a deal,” wrote McClatchy DC Bureau. “Do you think he will agree after all these activities we are doing for him?” asked Abdulnasser Gharem, a well-known Saudi artist who went to high school with two of the terrorist hijackers in his hometown of Namas. Gharem has incorporated the 9/11 attacks into some of his artwork, which he says he is forbidden from showing in Saudi Arabia. He also says that the Saudis have suffered. “We were the same; we were victims. Someone like me in the middle of nowhere was affected by what happened in New York, but no one was listening to us,” he said during an interview at his Riyadh studio.
A long red carpet was laid at the airport when Trump arrived; along with booming cannons; seven Saudi Arabian jets flying overhead; and a massive image of Trump beamed on the exterior of his hotel. President Trump also received the gold medallion-the King Abdul Aziz Collar— which is considered the Kingdom’s highest honor, according to the McClatchy DC Bureau, which reported that Trump was seeking to restore relations with Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Saudi officials never publically raised the issue during Trump’s visit, which was the first stop of the president’s first foreign trip; White House and National Security Council staff also declined to comment. A Saudi official minimized the topic, pointing out that the Kingdom had numerous urgent issues to discuss with U.S. officials such as the war in Syria, threats from nearby Iran, and the civil war in Yemen, McClatchy DC Bureau reported.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al Falih, said in an interview in March 2017 that his nation believed that the Trump administration and Congress would reverse course and that others there see JASTA as a major source of conflict. “If Trump supports the JASTA, he will lose the relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Mohammed Alhamza, a social researcher and writer, said through a translator during an interview in his Riyadh home. The view according to McClatchy DC Bureau is fairly widely held among Saudis. “Do you expect Trump will pass JASTA after (billions of) Saudi riyals went to the United States?”Alhamza asked, referring to the various agreements Trump and Saudi King Salman signed totaling $360 billion in weapons sales and economic development. Alhamza, like many Saudis, believes someone else assisted the hijackers and is angered concerning a law he believes was passed with no evidence that Saudi Arabia was to blame and that could also cause economic harm to his country.
The Saudi hijackers resided in Florida, California, Virginia, and New Jersey prior to the attacks. All of them died in an attack described as the worst in history and which killed nearly 3,000 people, noted McClatchy DC Bureau.
“The image of an American president going to Saudi Arabia and coming back, and then asking the Congress to be nice to Saudi Arabia…. I don’t think that’s going to sell very well,” said Bruce Riedel, a former senior adviser to the last four presidents. Riedel is now a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Prior to his first presidential trip, a group representing the survivors and nearly 10,000 family members of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks wrote to Trump asking him to ignore pressure from the Saudis to weaken the law and denounce their lobbying efforts. “We expect that the Saudis will try to convince you to betray the 9/11 families,” wrote Terry Strada, national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “They will not put it that way, but will instead argue that you should ‘fix’ JASTA to eliminate ‘unintended consequences.’ Please do not let them get away with this dishonest approach. The Saudis do not want to ‘fix’ JASTA; they want you and Congress to pass a new law that arms them with a special defense against our lawsuits.”
Trump, then a presidential candidate at the time the bill passed, criticized Obama and issued a statement by former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, calling Obama’s veto “an insult to those we lost on 9/11.” Trump has said little about the issue since his inauguration, McClatchy DC Bureau reported. “Trump is limited in his ability to change this at this point,” said Jordan Tama, a professor in the School of International Service at American University in Washington. “Trump can’t do anything to stop what’s in place. There’s no prospect that would be repealed.”
The Congressional action followed the release of a long-withheld 28-page section of the first U.S. report on the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The report detailed potential ties between the hijackers and Saudi officials who Congressional investigators thought deserved more attention. Saudi Arabia organized a massive lobbying effort to stop the legislation, including asking former military leaders, business executives with interests in Saudi Arabia, and veterans to warn lawmakers about the consequences. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al Jubeir said in Washington in 2016 when the debate was going on concerning the release of the 28 pages that had been originally withheld from the 9/11 Commission report on the attacks that, “The 28 pages were used … to cast aspersions on Saudi Arabia.” He added that, “And everybody talked about once they are released it will show incontrovertible proof that Saudi Arabia is guilty. That Saudi Arabia was behind 9/11. That Saudi Arabia committed 9/11. Not true. The 28 pages don’t reveal anything,” he asserted, according to McClatchy DC Bureau.
Parker Waichman Continues to Pursue Legal Action for Families and Survivors of the 9/11 Attacks
Parker Waichman vows to continue its efforts to safeguard these the families of responders and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Please fill out the online form for a free case evaluation or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) for a free case review.