Saudi Arabia has threatened economic retaliation if the U.S. passes pending legislation that would allow victims of terrorist attacks to sue foreign governments that are responsible.
The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would permit victims of 9/11 to sue the Saudis and other financial partners of terrorism. The Obama administration is vigorously trying to block the bill.
Saudi Arabia warned it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars of American assets if the bill is passed. Delivering the message personally in Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Congress Saudi Arabia would sell $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets before they would be in jeopardy of being frozen by American courts.
Saudi Arabia denied involvement in the 9/11 attacks, however, the official U.S. government report on the attack contains 28 censored pages on the topic of “foreign support for the September 11 hijackers.” Investigators say these pages confirm the Saudi’s role in the 2001 attacks that claimed the lives of close to 3,000 people and injured more than 6,000.
For years, the Saudis have asked for the release of the censored pages, but the Bush administration said disclosure would damage the U.S.’ ability to gather intelligence on terrorists. The Obama administration also refused to release the redacted pages.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Other evidence of Saudi involvement in the terrorist attacks includes information leaked from the censored pages including the documentation of a series of phone calls between one of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, and the transfer of $130,000 from then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to one of the hijacker’s handlers in San Diego.
Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker,” who was sent to prison for his role in the attacks said members of the Saudi royal family donated funds to al-Qaeda. He also said he personally met a Saudi diplomat in Washington to plot the assassination of the U.S. president using a surface-to air missile. The two discussed bombing the U.S. Embassy in London as well.
"The Saudis have known what they did in 9/11, and they knew that we knew what they did, at least at the highest levels of the U.S. government," said former Sen. Bob Graham, co-chair of the 9/11 congressional inquiry commission.
Families tried in the past to sue the Saudi government, but the cases were rejected due to a 1976 law granting foreign nations immunity from lawsuits in the American judicial system.
"I think part of the concern is that somehow this is a thumb in the eye to Saudi Arabia, a valuable ally," said Senate-sponsor Cornyn. "It's not open-ended and it's not targeted at Saudi Arabia."
Cornyn also dismissed the threats from Saudi Arabia. "It's seems overly defensive to me and I doubt they can do it," he said. "I don't think we should let foreign countries dictate the domestic policy of the United States."
Other analysts say it is unlikely the Saudis will follow through on their threats.
All of the presidential candidates support the bill, expect John Kasich, who has not commented on it to date.