Washington | US President Barack Obama has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, fearing that the move could have serious implications for America’s national interests.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) bill, passed by both the chambers of the Republican controlled Congress, would have jeopardized the long standing international principles regarding sovereignty and would have made adverse impact with US interests and nationals overseas, Obama said.
He stressed that the bill departs from longstanding standards and practice under US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and threatens to strip all foreign governments of immunity from judicial process in the country based solely upon allegations by private litigants that a foreign government’s overseas conduct had some role or connection to a group or person that carried out a terrorist attack inside the United States.
“This would invite consequential decisions to be made based upon incomplete information and risk having different courts reaching different conclusions about the culpability of individual foreign governments and their role in terrorist activities directed against the United States,” Obama said.
“It is neither an effective nor a coordinated way for us to respond to indications that a foreign government might have been behind a terrorist attack,” he added.
Fearing its consequences, the US President said JASTA would upset longstanding international principles regarding sovereign immunity, putting in place rules that, if applied globally, could have serious implications for the country’s national interests and it can even complicate relations with its closest partners.
“If JASTA were enacted, courts could potentially consider even minimal allegations accusing US allies or partners of complicity in a particular terrorist attack in the United States to be sufficient to open the door to litigation and wide-ranging discovery against a foreign country,” Obama said.
Justifying his decision, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama is much more worried about the long-term impact of this legislation on the US national security as compared to his daily interactions with members of the Congress.
“This is the president that ordered the operation to take Osama bin Laden off the battlefield. This is the president who time and again advocated for legislation that provided health care to recovery workers at Ground Zero, even in the face of some Republican opposition to that,” Earnest said.
“And this is the president who time and time again has spoken movingly about the impact that 9/11 has had on our country and the way that those who lost loved ones on 9/11 serve as a daily inspiration to the president and to Americans across the country and exhibiting the kind of resolve and resiliency that’s unique to this country,” he said.
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