Friday, September 30, 2016


It is interesting that this Congress seems to be able to overcome partisanship only when there's opportunity to strike a self-righteous pose.  Despite warnings from the CIA director and others, CIA Director Calls 9/11 Legislation 'Badly Misguided'An Obama Veto Worth Backing, Congress has overridden Obama's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (Jasta) which creates a new exception to foreign sovereign immunity -- to permit suits against countries for their possible involvement in acts of domestic terrorism.  The purported purpose of the bill was to give the 9/11 victims -- and their lawyers -- the ability to sue Saudi Arabia.

Foreign sovereign immunity exists for a reason:  sovereign immunity avoids the potential adverse political consequences from private lawsuits against foreign governments.  As Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted, when you start doing away with sovereign immunity, “you end up exporting your foreign policy to trial lawyers.”  International affairs are complicated enough without a lot of private citizens crossing swords with foreign governments.

There are already some exceptions to sovereign immunity -- claims involving commercial transactions  and claims against countries that have been officially designated as “state sponsors of terrorism” by the American government (Saudi Arabia is not one).  The new exception allows civil lawsuits against any sovereign nations that “knowingly or recklessly contribute material support or resources, directly or indirectly, to persons or organizations that pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism…” regardless of any designation that it is a "state sponsor of terrorism."

What reveals the lack of seriousness in the override is that Congress in the same week approved a major arms deal to Saudi Arabia.  Senate Votes to Advance $1.15 Billion Saudi Arms Deal.   If the Senate really believed that Saudi Arabia was behind the 9/11 attacks, why is it selling the Saudis over a billion dollars in arms?

To me, Jasta is a lot of nonsense.  First, the 9/11 victims have been compensated.  More Than $38 Billion Paid to 9/11 Victims.  So, this isn't really about compensation.

Beyond that, the law represents a rather sad reprisal to a particularly heinous crime.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed and Japan killed some 2400 Americans, Congress didn't swing into action and decide to teach Japan a lesson by allowing the Pearl Harbor victims to sue the Japanese government.  It declared war on Japan and pursued that war until there was total victory.  If Congress really believed that Saudi Arabia was behind a terrorist act that claimed more lives than the Pearl Harbor attack, Riyadh would have been leveled long ago.

The Congressional override is clearly just a lot posturing before an election in an attempt to garner a few more votes.  It does nothing to further American interests, and does much to harm them.  Already Congress is having buyer's remorse.  The Runaway 9/11 Bill That Congress Refused to Stop.

1 comment:

James R said...

I agree completely. Now we may better be able to separate the posturing politicians from real representatives. Unbelievably, the Senate vote was 97 to 1 with only Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voting against overriding the veto. On the House side, 59 Democrats and 18 Republicans were brave and smart enough to vote with Obama (showing once again that not all Republicans are stupid). Here are the names of the Representatives who voted against overriding the veto:

Bass, Benishek, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Buck, Capps, Carson (IN), Chaffetz, Clay, Clyburn, Cohen, Conaway, Conyers, Cooper, Cummings, Davis (CA), Davis, Danny, DeGette, DeSaulnier, DesJarlais, Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Frankel (FL), Garamendi, Grayson, Grijalva, Grothman, Hartzler, Heck (WA), Hinojosa, Issa, Johnson (GA), Johnson, E. B., Jolly, Kaptur, Kelly (IL), Kind, King (IA), Kline, Larsen (WA), Lee, Lewis, Matsui, McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, Moore, Moulton, Nunes, O’Rourke, Perlmutter, Quigley, Ribble, Richmond, Ruppersberger, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott (VA), Sessions, Sherman, Smith (WA), Speier, Stewart, Takano, Thompson (CA), Thornberry, Turner, Vargas, Veasey, Visclosky, Waters, Maxine, Welch, Wilson (FL), Yarmuth, Young (AK)

Dan Donovan(R) of New York said this on the Congress floor before the vote, "Foreign threats should never dictate American policy, but that is, unfortunately, what happened with President Obama's veto of this legislation."