WASHINGTON (WJZ) — It’s a controversy that’s picking up steam — did a foreign government help September 11 hijackers carry out the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil? Many people who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 say the answer is “yes.”
In an unprecedented move Tuesday, the Senate voted to allow family members who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi government.
WJZ’s Ava-joye Burnett explains what this may mean for family members who believe justice was never served.
Senate Republicans and even Democrats went against President Obama’s wishes and passed this legislation. If it becomes law, victims’ families could sue a government that has long said it had nothing to do with Sept. 11.
Almost 15 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Republican and Democratic senators have joined forced to pass legislation, that if it becomes law, would allow Americans to sue the Saudi government for allegedly supporting some of the Sept. 11 attackers.
Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
“The victims of Sept. 11 and other terrorist attacks have suffered such pain and heartache that they certainly should not be denied justice,” said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The Senate made the move despite the president’s threat of a veto. For some Maryland families, they could see both sides of the story.
“It’s hard to get over that,” said John Wesley of Howard County, whose fiancee died on Flight 77 when it flew into the Pentagon. For him, the decision to sue the Saudi government is a tough one.
“On the one hand, I’m happy for the possibility that families can sue the Saudi government,” he said. “But I am also concerned about the impact that will have on relations between the U.S. government and the Saudi government.”
The Saudi Arabian government has consistently denied any involvement in the attacks, and the country — a key U.S. ally — has threatened to withdraw billions from the U.S. economy if the bill passes.
The Obama administration has been lobbying to kill the legislation.
“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” President Obama said.
If the president vetoes this legislation, senators say they have the majority to override him.
The bill still needs to be taken up by the House.