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A Rundown Of The 9/11 Saudi Lawsuit

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by Jon Gold

On 1/8/2008, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “a huge lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia and key members of its royal family was put to a crucial test today as lawyers for victims of the 9/11 attacks urged a federal appeals court to reinstate the government of Saudi Arabia as a defendant.” The Cozen O’Connor law firm in Philadelphia “was the first to file suit against the government of Saudi Arabia in 2003, charging that the desert kingdom bears responsibility for the attacks because it permitted Islamic charities under its control to bankroll Osama bin Laden and his global terror movement.” The lawsuit “suffered a setback in 2005 when New York federal district court judge Richard Conway Casey ruled that the federal foreign sovereign immunity act barred lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and members of the royal family.”

 

Editor’s Note:
“Two federal judges and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals have already ruled against the 7,630 people represented in the lawsuit, made up of survivors of the attacks and family members of those killed, throwing out the suit on the ground that the families cannot bring legal action in the United States against a sovereign nation and its leaders.”“The Supreme Court is expected to decide this week whether to hear an appeal, but the families’ prospects dimmed last month when the Justice Department sided with the Saudis in their immunity claim and urged the court not to consider the appeal.” (NYTimes)

On 11/13/2008, it was reported that “thousands of victims of the 9/11 attacks appealed to the Supreme Court yesterday, asking it to overturn a lower court decision barring lawsuits against Saudi Arabia for supporting acts of terrorism.”

On 1/6/2009, it is reported that “lawyers for Saudi Arabia have asserted in court papers that the Supreme Court should reject arguments that the desert kingdom be held accountable for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because, over a period of many years, it financed al-Qaeda. In papers filed with the Supreme Court, lawyers for the kingdom and several high-ranking Saudi royals say that U.S. law provides blanket immunity to Saudi Arabia from lawsuits over the 9/11 attacks.”

On 2/24/2009, it is reported that “the Supreme Court yesterday asked the U.S. Solicitor General’s office to weigh in on whether a huge lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia charging that it was a source of terrorist financing before the 9/11 attacks should move forward.”

On 5/29/2009, the New York Times reports that “the Justice Department, in a brief filed Friday before the Supreme Court, said it did not believe the Saudis could be sued in American court over accusations brought by families of the Sept. 11 victims that the royal family had helped finance Al Qaeda. The department said it saw no need for the court to review lower court rulings that found in the Saudis’ favor in throwing out the lawsuit.” 9/11 Family Member, and “Jersey Girl” Kristen Breitweiser said, “I find this reprehensible. One would have hoped that the Obama administration would have taken a different stance than the Bush administration, and you wonder what message this sends to victims of terrorism around the world.”

On 5/30/2009, the victims family members released two press releases. The first one states, “today the Obama Administration filed in the Supreme Court a document that expressed the Administration’s decision to stand with a group of Saudi princes and against the right of American citizens — 9/11 family members — to have our day in court. Let there be no doubt: The filing was political in nature and stands as a betrayal of everyone who lost a loved one or was injured on September 11, 2001.” The second one states, “on the day that President Obama holds his first summit with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah in Riyadh, the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism charged that recent actions by his administration would enable five of the king’s closest relatives to escape accountability for their role in financing and materially supporting the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” The second press release lists “allegations made in 2002 of the Saudi royal family’s sponsorship and support of al Qaeda that the families believe have been ignored by the Obama Administration.”

On 6/9/2009, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that this case “is likely to reach a critical juncture this month when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear arguments on Saudi Arabia’s legal exposure.” It goes on to say that “the hurdle for the plaintiffs, both insurers and individual victims, isn’t simply facts and law, but also the political dimensions. Saudi Arabia is one of the United States’ most important allies in the Middle East. It has been a forward staging area for the U.S. military, deemed an important counterweight to Iran’s regional ambitions, seen as a huge source of energy, and a very big purchaser of American goods and services.” Tom Burnett who lost his son on Flight 93 asks, “why would the Obama administration give less weight to the principles of justice, transparency, and security and more to the pleadings of a foreign government? It strikes a blow against the public’s right to know who financed and supported” the 9/11 attacks.” “Kagan’s May 29 brief, representing the opinion of the Obama administration, was significant because the Supreme Court in most cases follows the solicitor general’s lead.”

On 6/11/2009, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “lawyers representing victims of the 9/11 attacks charge that the government sought to “appease” Saudi Arabia by urging the Supreme Court not to hear arguments that the kingdom could be sued for its alleged role in funding the attackers.” A “brief filed by the Center City law firm of Cozen O’Connor and other lawyers representing victims, employed unusually scathing and at times emotional language, suggesting at one point that the government’s brief was timed to coincide with President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week.” “A spokeswoman for U.S. Solictor General Elena Kagan said the May 29 filing of the government’s brief had been determined by the schedule of the Supreme Court, which is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of the month.”

On 6/23/2009, the Washington Times reports that a “series of closed-door meetings between the relatives’ groups and Justice Department officials, arranged as an update on Mr. Obama’s plan to close the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, turned instead into a sharp clash over the Saudi legal action.” Apparently, “the family members demanded to be be heard on the White House’s stance during a series of closed-door meetings at the State Department and the Justice Department last week.”

On 6/24/2009, the New York Times reported that “classified American intelligence documents related to Saudi finances were leaked anonymously to lawyers for the families.” It goes on to say that Obama’s “Justice Department had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.” 9/11 Family Member Kristen Breitweiser “said in an interview that during a White House meeting in February between President Obama and victims’ families, the president told her that he was willing to make the pages (28 redacted pages of the JICI) public. But she said she had not heard from the White House since then.”