For years millions of Americans have seethed in anger as the U.S. government appeared to downplay and even hide the Saudi Arabian government’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
But in recent days Congress, for the first time in his tenure, overrode President Obama’s veto of legislation aimed at allowing the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to pursue legal action against the Saudi government for its involvement.
And now, a U.S. Navy widow has become the first to file suit against Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, for allegedly providing material support to Saudi national Osama bin Laden, the now-deceased founder of al Qaeda and mastermind behind the attacks.
As reported by RT.com, Stephanie Ross DeSimone was pregnant with Navy Cdr. Patrick Dunn’s daughter when he died aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which was deliberately flown into the Pentagon the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
The hijackers of that plane were Saudi nationals, as were 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers who had commandeered four planes that fateful day. Two were steered into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one was directed at the Pentagon in Washington D.C, while a fourth, that was also headed in the direction of Washington D.C., was retaken by passengers and crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania.
In her suit, DeSimone is charging Saudi Arabia with wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress, on behalf of herself and the couple’s now-teenaged daughter. The suit was filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.
DeSimone’s suit is technically the first one that has been filed. But James Kreindler, a New York-based attorney, is representing hundreds of victims’ families who have tried to get compensation from the Saudis for more than 10 years. He told The Wall Street Journal that his firm planned to submit documents similar to DeSimone’s suit in a New York federal court in the coming days.
The law that has made the suits possible – Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) – was originally filed in 2009. It was reintroduced last year.
The law gives U.S. citizens the right to sue not just states officially considered by the State Department to be state sponsors of terrorism – like Syria, Sudan and Iran – but also any government judged to have provided aid for an attack, even if that country is currently an economic partner, or ally, of the United States.
Obama was very opposed to the legislation, but in a rebuke to him, his veto was widely overruled in both the House and the Senate. It was the first of a dozen of Obama’s vetoes that have been overridden.
Critics of the law say it violates a long-standing principle of sovereign immunity – that is, not holding governments liable for the actions of their citizens. However, in this case, there is evidence that at least some of the 9/11 hijackers received direct assistance from members of the royal Saudi government in launching the largest, deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil.