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US 9/11 Lawsuits Against Saudi Arabia Would Shift Foreign Policy to Courts

© AP Photo / Marty LederhandlerIn this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, the twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building in New York.
In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, the twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building in New York. - Sputnik International
According to the former House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, JASTA by means of its actions takes foreign policy out of the hands of the White House and into the courts.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), allowing US victims of terrorism to sue Saudi Arabia, takes foreign policy out of the hands of the White House and into the courts, former House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Sputnik.

"I am generally concerned about taking foreign policy and relationships at that level… and moving it to the judicial branch," Rogers said on Wednesday. "It may, in fact, stifle good outcomes in the end."

Saudi second deputy Prime Minister Mugren bin Abdulaziz (C-R) and unidentified Emirs perform during the traditional Saudi dancing best known as 'Arda' which performed during the Janadriya culture festival at Der'iya in Riyadh - Sputnik International
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On Tuesday, the US Senate voted on JASTA, which passed in a rare, unanimous vote of approval. The act would clarify existing US law, allowing Americans to sue foreign nationals who are believed to have financially or otherwise sponsored terrorist attacks against the United States.

Rogers argued that allowing such cases as the one against Saudi Arabia to go forward could "hinder" the ability of the White House to guide US foreign policy.

"You want to be cautious about taking away any government’s ability to conduct foreign relations. Next week, our relationship with Saudi Arabia… can change, and you need to have that flexibility in the administration to be able to take advantage of that," Rogers warned. He explained that a lengthy legal battle in US courts could take important diplomatic tools off the table for any US administration.

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For more than a decade, a group of families who lost their loved ones during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have been working to bring a lawsuit against the Saudi government for damages.

If JASTA becomes law, it will allow the families to carry out their lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, which they believe is responsible for sponsoring the terrorist attacks.

In recent years, September 11 victim families’ attempts to sue have been repeatedly thwarted, with US courts upholding Saudi claims to sovereign immunity, a status that gives them exemption from prosecution in the United States.

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