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JASTA Poses No Threat to U.S. Military and Veterans

terry stada

By Terry Strada

Saudi Arabia is spending more than $1.3 million monthly on a massive lobbying and public relations campaign to spread misinformation about the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) to dupe Congress into gutting the law before it has a chance to work. Saudi agents have grotesquely distorted JASTA, but none of their lies is more offensive than their claim that JASTA puts American troops at risk.

These false claims are inimical to U.S. interests, and the Saudi-led campaign to promote them should be considered an act of aggression towards America.  The fact is that JASTA does nothing to put U.S. troops at risk, nor does it drastically change our sovereign immunity law.  It provides a modest exception to the limited sovereign immunity of foreign states where Americans are injured in the U.S. due to an act of international terrorism caused by the tortious act of a foreign state, and it expressly preserves foreign state immunity where the claim might be for an omission or act that constitutes mere negligence. In other words, JASTA is extremely narrow.

The Saudi-funded distortion would have you believe that other nations will enact “reciprocal” laws that target our troops, but JASTA’s terms are clear. JASTA has nothing to do with the immunity of individuals – neither officials, troops, nor other individuals.  It is about foreign countries.  It has nothing to do with any nations’ military actions, applying only to “international terrorism” and specifically excluding “acts of war” – both being terms carefully defined in preexisting federal law.

The U.S. generally – and certainly not our armed forces – has nothing to fear from other nations enacting JASTA laws.  The Saudi lobbyists are surely aware that, for years, official U.S. policy has been to negotiate and apply Status of Forces Agreements to protect U.S. personnel from claims in foreign courts. Since World War II, the U.S. has used these agreements to protect our troops stationed abroad from the risk of foreign litigation – a risk our nation has dealt with effectively for decades and that has nothing to do with JASTA.  Nothing in JASTA will have any impact on their enforceability.

This outrageous Saudi-created claim is even more offensive because a primary threat our troops face is the global spread of violent Islamist extremism. And the Saudis, themselves, have long supported the corrupted ideology that fueled the September 11 hijackers and still inspires terrorists worldwide, including ISIS. Our troops are not at risk because terrorism victims are holding foreign nations to account for supporting terrorists. They are at risk because they fight to protect us against a violent fanaticism that has long found its home in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Those who were injured and died on 9/11 deserve better than to see Congress cowed by distortions from foreign agents of the very nation so heavily responsible for this phenomenon.

JASTA is good for America, including those serving in our armed forces. Congress has been wise to ignore the Saudi distortion campaign, and it will be even wiser to allow JASTA to work as intended.

 

Terry Strada is a mother, 9/11 Widow, Special Interest Advocate and National Chair for 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism – “the 9/11 families”.  In this role, Terry serves as liaison between the 9/11 families and the U.S. Congress.  From her home in New Jersey, Terry travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, House and Senate leadership offices, as well as the Legislative Directors who are responsible for national security and terrorism legislation.

Saudis Paid U.S. veterans to Lobby Against JASTA

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. Military Veterans were paid thousands and thousands of dollars for hotel costs and travel expenses by Saudi Arabia. Their mission? Lobby Congress against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA),  a law allowing the families of victims from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to sue the Saudi government.

The Qorvis MSLGroup, a Washington-based lobbying and public relations firm that represents Saudi Arabia, was said to have hired some 70 lobbyists to thwart the legislation. While JASTA didn’t mention any specific countries, 15 of the 19 hijackers that acted on 9/11 were Saudi, and supporters generally acknowledged that it was aimed at Saudi Arabia.

In their defense, many of the veterans who were recruited by lobbyists didn’t know the Saudi government was paying for the trips. The veterans were asked to don their medals and try to sway lawmakers in D.C., warning them of the possible unintended consequences of the law, saying other countries could use the law to sue U.S. diplomats, members of the military or U.S. companies.

Veterans lobbying against JASTA weren’t given any literature to distribute to members of Congress they were calling on. “Leave-behind” material is considered essential in any lobbying campaign.

Last September, Congress voted to override a presidential veto to give victims’ families the right to sue foreign nations found to have supported a terrorist attack.

To date, some opponents of JASTA still refuse to divulge exactly who they paid and how much they were paid. The chief lobbyist for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said it encouraged its subcontractors to be as transparent as possible.

Despite a legal requirement for lobbyists to immediately reveal payments from foreign governments, there have been no consequences for campaigners who failed to notify the Justice Department over Saudi Arabia’s role only months after they received funds.

Saudi Arabia’s rulers have long denied funding extremists.

While foreign lobbying is perfectly legal, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is not. FARA required that written communications in support of lobbying and public relations work on behalf of a foreign government carry a “conspicuous statement” notifying the audience that the material was prepared on behalf of a foreign government.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Senate Overrides Presidential Veto on Anti-Terrorism Bill

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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.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.