Saudi Arabia: Liable for 9/11?

Almost 15 years ago, terrorist group Al Qaeda crashed two planes into Manhattan’s twin towers, one plane into the Pentagon, and one plane destined for the White House but taken over by passengers and crashed into a field in Shenksville, Pennsylvania. The families of the more than 2,000 victims have been unable to sue anyone for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones, because the party at fault legally was Al Qaeda, and you can’t exactly serve a terrorist group and expect them to show up in court and pay damages to the families of victims. 

Humans have a psychological tendency to blame when things go wrong; if a terrorist group kills thousands, and you can’t legally blame the terrorist group, someone’s got to take the blame. Right?

In Congress, there is currently a bipartisan bill that, if passed, would grant the families of 9/11 victims the right to sue Saudi Arabia for the wrongful deaths of their family members. The White House and State Department are warning senators not to proceed with the legislation over fears it could have dramatic consequences for the United States and citizens living abroad to retaliatory lawsuits. President Obama landed in Riyadh on May 18 for talks with Saudi Arabia over ISIS and Iran at a time of strained relations between the countries, making the bill’s timing that much more sensitive.

The bill would prevent Saudi Arabia and other countries alleged to have terrorist ties from using their sovereign immunity in federal court.

Party leaders have also just learned that there is an unnamed GOP senator who will oppose the bill. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is one of the major proponents of the bill. “If Saudi Arabia participated in terrorism, of course they should be able to be sued,” Schumer said Monday. “This bill would allow a suit to go forward and victims of terrorism to go to court to determine if the Saudi government participated in terrorist acts. If the Saudis did, they should pay a price.”