Families of the victims in the 9/11 attacks are infuriated at President Obama’s administration for what they call “siding with Saudi Arabia” over a bill that could incriminate Saudi officials for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, reports the Daily Mail. The document in question is an 838-page report, 28 pages of which implicate Saudi Arabia. It is these 28 pages that are the focus of the victims’ families. To date the Obama administration has refused to declassify the pages and reveal their contents, apparently waiting for a congressional vote to make the decision.
Mindy Kleinberg, who lost her husband in the attacks, said in an interview, “It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens.” She is part of a group pushing for the legislation against the Kingdom. The group says the Obama administration has “consistently sided with the kingdom,” and in doing so prevented them from discovering “the truth about the role some Saudi officials played in the terrorist plot.”
Two attempts at a lawsuit have been made by the families, the last being in December 2015. In this case, a U.S. judge ruled there was not enough evidence linking Saudi Arabia to the attacks. Evidence dismissed includes claims by a man in custody that the attack was partially financed by a Saudi prince. Of the 19 men behind the attacks, 15 were Saudi citizens. Jim Kreindler, one of the lawyers representing the families, says, ”the administration views the 9/11 families’ suit as an impediment to the U.S.-Saudi relationship.”
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, which offers foreign nations a degree of immunity from being sued in American courts, is another reason why the families have failed to bring the Saudi royal family and charities to court over suspicion of financially supporting the attacks.
Saudi officials have issued a threat, stating that in the event of the bill implicating their country in the attacks being passed, they would sell off hundreds of billions of dollars of American assets. This warning came from Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last month during a visit to Washington. This amounted to $750 billion in U.S. treasury securities and other assets.
According to Tim Worstall of Forbes, this could be seen as an empty threat.
“Yes, indeed, it’s a large amount of money. But large in relation to what? This is wealth, assets, so we can’t go comparing it even to GDP, which is a flow, we need to compare it to the stock of assets in the US. And at that it’s perhaps 1% of the assets of the nation. Someone selling 1% of the stock of a company would be one of those things we would notice for sure but it wouldn’t exactly be an existential crisis, would it? If the actions went further, to the Saudis moving the money they receive out of dollars and into, say, the Euro, it’s not immediately obvious that those markets would even see what is happening. Daily turnover in London alone is well over $2 trillion. This is thus more of an interesting thing to say than an important problem that has to be dealt with.”
The New York Times said it is doubtful that the Saudis will follow through with the threat, as it would be technically challenging. Along with this, the U.S. dollar, against which the Saudi riyal is pegged, would suffer.
President Obama is scheduled to arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials, but it has not been disclosed whether the dispute over the legislation will be discussed.
[Photo by Lawrence Jackson/AP Images]