Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is on the warpath against alleged foreign interference in America’s presidential election, but that hasn’t stopped the South Carolina senator from allowing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to get away with killing thousands of Americans on September 11th, 2001.
Since the infamous 9/11 attack, families have sought justice in court for those that were responsible for killing their loved ones. For the past 15 years, they have been unable to do so because the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) blocks such suits from occurring. To help victims receive justice, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would grant 9/11 as an exception to FSIA. Although JASTA passed easily with strong bipartisan backing, President Obama vetoed the bill. Yet, support for the bill was so strong that Congress managed to override the veto with overwhelming support (97-1 in the Senate, 348-77 in the House).
Now, the nervous-nelly Saudi Arabia is doing everything it can to avoid the pending lawsuits. The country has hired everyone from the Podesta Group to former members of Congress to ensure that JASTA is repealed or eviscerated. The country greatly increased its K-Street presence after the law was passed and appears to be getting its $1.3 million a month money’s worth.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arbia’s greatest allies in this fight are three Republican senators – John McCain, Orrin Hatch and, of course, Lindsey Graham. They are doing everything they can to help pull the teeth out of JASTA, like pushing a “fix” to the bill which will completely gut the legislation and make it extremely difficult for any cases to proceed.
The funny thing is that prior to the bill’s passage, Sen. Graham told 9-11 families that he was with them. Terry Strada, the National Chair for the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, said that in an April meeting between Graham and the victims the South Carolina Senator pledged his full support for JASTA.
Now, the doublespeak champion is the one leading the charge to get the law overturned. Strada accurately calls this a betrayal. “Senator Graham is now stabbing the 9/11 families in the back,” he said. “He and Senator McCain are seeking to torpedo JASTA by imposing changes demanded by Saudi Arabia’s lobbyists. We have reviewed the language, and it is an absolute betrayal.”
This betrayal comes at a time when Saudi Arabia’s in the attacks has become more certain than ever. After fifteen years of cover-ups, new unclassified information has uncovered some Saudi officials and citizens’ involvement in the terrorist attack. A congressional investigation found evidence that Omar al-Bayoumi, who once worked for the Saudi government and was in frequent contact with senior Saudi officials who received large sums of cash from the Saudi government, might have helped two of the 9/11 hijackers while they were living in San Diego.
The report even mentioned that Saudi intelligence may have very well had a direct line to Osama bin Laden through Bayoumi. “[He] acted like a Saudi intelligence officer, in my opinion,” one agent told Congress. “And if he was involved with the hijackers, which it looks like he was, if he signed leases, if he provided some sort of financing or payment of some sort, then I would say that there’s a clear possibility that there might be a connection between Saudi intelligence and [Osama bin Laden].”
When analyzing the data, it’s clear that JASTA needs to remain the law of the land long enough for the judicial system to work. Congress knows this, the American people know this, and even President-elect Donald Trump has expressed his acknowledgement of this truth. When push comes to shove, it appears that everyone with the exception of Saudi Arabia and a few Senators understand this point.