Senate Overrides Presidential Veto on Anti-Terrorism Bill


By Debbie Gregory.

In the first successful override of a presidential veto since Obama took office, the House and Senate voted to reject President Obama’s veto of legislation allowing lawsuits against foreign sponsors of terrorism. This was Obama’s 12th veto of his presidency.

S.2040/H.R.3815, known as the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, was vetoed because it was thought that the bill would infringe on the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy. The legislation creates an exception for sovereign immunity granted in U.S. courts to foreign governments that are not designated state sponsors of terrorism.

Survivors and families member of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have longed pushed for the ability to sue Saudi Arabia for damages. They believe the country played a role in the attacks. Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, though Saudi Arabia has formally denied any association.

The House voted 348-77, well above the two-thirds majority needed. The final vote tally in the Senate was 97-1. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cast the lone dissenting vote. Even Obama’s Democratic allies on Capitol Hill voted to override his veto.

Obama stated that although he thinks overriding his veto was a mistake, he understood why Congress voted the way it did.

Congress spent nearly seven years evaluating every aspect of JASTA to carefully refine its text and policies. The resulting legislation ensures that the rights of American citizens are prioritized above Saudi interests, allowing victims to hold foreign governments accountable in U.S. courts for furthering terrorism against Americans.

The measure essentially creates an exception to sovereign immunity, the doctrine that holds one country can’t be sued in another country’s courts. It allows plaintiffs to sue other nations in U.S. federal courts for monetary damages in cases of injury, death or property damage caused by acts of international terrorism in the United States.

The president warned the law could be “devastating” to the U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence communities.

“The United States relies on principles of immunity to prevent foreign litigants and foreign courts from second-guessing our counter-terrorism operations and other actions that we take every day,” he wrote.

Although the 9/11 commission did not find any proof of Saudi government involvement, the families still want to examine any possible links not yet uncovered. The legislation provides the green light for them to move forward.

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In Solidarity With Belgium, Obama Wants ISIS Defeated by End of His Term


By Debbie Gregory.

Even before the horrendous terrorist attacks on Brussels which killed at least 34 people and injured about 170, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that President Obama wants the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) defeated by the end of his term.

Carter said that the president called for the process to be accelerated last fall — about a year after the U.S. first began its counter-ISIS campaign.

President Obama does not want to leave the defeat of ISIS to his successor, and Carter said he’s optimistic.

“I’m confident that we’ll do it. And we have an operational plan now,” Carter said.

Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, the spokesman for U.S. Central Command gave a more cautious assessment as to when the coalition could take back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIS’s respective strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

“I’m not going to put a timeline on it other than to say, you know, we are going to work with our partners on the ground, and the coalition to move as fast as possible,” Ryder said.

The president said that the U.S. will do whatever it can to assist Belgium in bringing to justice those responsible for the attacks, and he urged international unity in defeating ISIS.

The attacks followed the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, an organizer of the November terror attacks in Paris that targeted cafes, restaurants, a concert hall and stadium, killing 130 people and injuring more than 350.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told the media that at the time of his capture, Abdeslam was “ready to restart something in Brussels,” and that he’d established a new network of people around him, and that a large weapons cache had been found.

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Were ISIS Intelligence Reports Altered?


By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon is investigating whether crucial ISIS intelligence reports were manipulated to reflect a more optimistic assessment of the American military campaign against the Islamic State.

President Obama said that he has told top military officials to “get to the bottom” of reports that intelligence assessments have been altered to give a rosier assessment of progress in turning back the Islamic State. He said that altering reports would be contrary to his wishes.

“One of the things I insisted on the day I walked into the Oval Office was that I don’t want intelligence shaded by politics. I don’t want it shaded by a desire to tell a feel-good story,” he said.

Obama said he didn’t know what that inspector general’s investigation would find regarding the ISIS intelligence reports. But he appeared to be more concerned about the issue than he’s been in previous responses, saying he’s asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, to investigate.

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he had not seen any evidence of altered ISIS intelligence reports during his tenure at the Pentagon, from early 2013 to February of this year.

Mr. Obama said he would not relent in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. He repeatedly described the group’s members as little more than thugs with guns who have little or no ability to “strike a mortal blow” against the United States or France.

Obama pledged to “take back their land” and “cut off their financing” and “hunt down their leadership” with what he called an intensifying strategy on all fronts.

He reiterated that Americans must not change the way they treat other people or demand unreasonable legal changes because they are fearful of another attack. He noted that Times Square in New York — not so far from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks — is filled with people.

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