Posted: 3:43 pm ET
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Back in April 2016, the NYT did a piece about Saudi Arabia warning of economic fallout if Congress passes the 9/11 bill. Secretary Kerry and top officials from State and the Pentagon warned Congress of potential legal jeopardy for Americans overseas if countries counter with retaliatory legislations:
Obama administration officials counter that weakening the sovereign immunity provisions would put the American government, along with its citizens and corporations, in legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their own legislation. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate panel in February that the bill, in its current form, would “expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent.”
In a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on March 4, Anne W. Patterson, an assistant secretary of state, and Andrew Exum, a top Pentagon official on Middle East policy, told staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that American troops and civilians could be in legal jeopardy if other nations decide to retaliate and strip Americans of immunity abroad. They also discussed the Saudi threats specifically, laying out the impacts if Saudi Arabia made good on its economic threats.
President Obama wrote a letter to the Congress explaining the potential consequences of the 9/11 bill.
President Obama said that his opposition to JASTA is based primarily on its potential impact on the United States. No, it’s not because he’s a Muslim. The sovereign immunity principles protect all nations but the United States, more than any other country in the world, is active in a lot more places. As we’ve pointed out previously, the State Department has diplomatic and consular presence in over 280 locations worldwide, and the U.S. military has 662 known military overseas bases in 38 foreign countries. In short, the sovereign immunity protection benefits the United States more than any other country in the world.
The CIA director said that “the principle of sovereign immunity protects US officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity.” If we don’t afford this protection to other countries, other countries will not afford this same protection to American citizens, or the U.S. government overseas.
The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C., understandably has the best collection of those who called on Congress warning of potential consequences of the 9/11 bill. Let’s borrow the following infographic depicting General Dunford. His letter is also appended below:
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter warned of potential consequences:
Former top government officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations warned of potential consequences:
The Senate and the House went and voted for it anyway.
Even if they know that there are serious potential consequences for our country down the road.
So 97 senators voted for the bill. Then 28 of those senators wrote a letter saying they’ll work to “mitigate” its unintended consequences. They did not say how. Only that they’ll work on it.
Except that they’ve gone home to campaign. The Senate will meet 15 times between now and November 15 but all those will be pro forma meetings with no business conducted.
So, the override has now angered some countries. Surprise.
But before they all left home for their break — the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate stood before the cameras to blame President Obama — who vetoed the bill — for failure to communicate the “potential consequences.”
President Obama on CNN:
The veto override was a political vote, is there any doubt? The only senator who voted “no” was the one not running for re-election. Not only was it a political vote, it appears that they passed a bill that opened a can of worms, throw chaos to the wind, put our people and global interests at risks, and appears toothless as heck from the looks of it.
Just Security’s Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) who is also a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law writes that “even if a plaintiff could obtain a judgment against a foreign sovereign like Saudi Arabia under the Senate-passed version of JASTA (that is, if they somehow avoid a perpetual stay), they would still have a devil of a time executing that judgment (and would have to base such execution on a different waiver of attachment immunity).” Read his long primer on JASTA and his piece, The Senate Killed JASTA, Then Passed It… which discusses the changes between the original bill and the version approved by the Congress.
Why perpetual stay? Because it says so in the bill that our elected representatives passed:
A stay that can last 180 days, which can be renewed for addition 180 days and can be recertified to provide additional extensions to the stays. These cases could potentially just go on forever, wouldn’t it? So the 9/11 families’ court cases could be in perpetual stay in U.S. courts but that would not preclude other countries from inacting retaliatory legislations against the United States.
Today, this happened. The case is DeSimone v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 16-cv-1944, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).