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.