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9/11 Families Protest Obama Veto Threat of Bill That Would Allow Saudi Suit

Hijacker Hani Hanjour, center foreground, believed to have piloted American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, is shown on surveillance video passing through the security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport on 9/11. (AP Photo/APTN)

WASHINGTON — Families of the victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack along with supporters of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) came to the White House on Tuesday to protest President Obama’s threat to veto the legislation.

If signed into law, the JASTA bill would allow U.S. courts to rule on cases that deal with claims against a foreign state for “injuries, death, or damages” that happen within the U.S. from terrorism that is carried out by a foreign state or foreign official.

After the release of the 28 classified pages of the 9/11 commission report, families of 9/11 victims argued that the bill would bring them justice because they could sue Saudi Arabia for alleged involvement in the attacks.

Most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Terry Strada, national chairwoman of 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, lost her husband in the attacks and organized the protest outside of the White House. She offered her reaction to the Saudi government denying any involvement in the attacks.

“Well, I say, ‘why are you fighting the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act so much? Why are you lobbying? Why are you spending millions of dollars in our halls of Congress intimidating and trying to strong-arm our legislative process? If you had nothing to do with 9/11, show up in the courtroom. We’ll show our evidence and you can argue it — that’s what JASTA does,’” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to go into the courtroom and have this aired out and we want that very much. We don’t know why they want to fight this bill. It’s an American bill. It’s for American citizens. It doesn’t have anything to do with them.”

Bruce Todd, who attended the protest, criticized Obama for not supporting the bill.

“I think [Obama] does not have an ounce of humanity in him. He certainly does not deserve to be the president of a country that stands for the idea of justice and a Constitution,” he said.

Sylvia Carter called on President Obama to stand with the victims’ families and sign the bill.

“We would finally get justice for all the victims of 9/11,” she said. “Now it’s time for the sponsors of terrorism to be held accountable in the courtroom. It’s time they be brought to justice — that they no longer can hide in the shadows.”

“He told us he was with us when he was becoming president. He was with us then but he’s not with us now,” Carter’s sister later said. “I shouldn’t have voted. He’s not with us.”

Geraldine Davey, who lost her daughter in the attacks, said the 9/11 families still have no justice 15 years later.

“We really want to have justice,” she said while protesters chanted, “No veto.”

“They were Saudi citizens and were raised in Saudi Arabia and they came here as bad actors and 3,000 men and women lost their lives, and the president should honor us with signing this legislation because the Saudis did a terrible thing and we just cannot let it stand any longer. We’ve been fighting this for a long time,” she added.

A man who was injured in the World Trade Center attack said the bill would give the victims’ families a day in court.

“We are convinced that Saudi Arabia through financing supported the hijackers who had been living in the United States. We have proof of that. For a well-planned attack like that there’s no way these individuals could have pulled that off without some financing directly from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a co-sponsor of the bill, urged President Obama to sign it.

“We believe that individual rights deserve protection, and that every individual deserves a day in court. That is the objective of this measure. I’m urging the president, as I did in a letter with my colleague, Senator Schumer, to sign this measure. It was unanimously passed and I believe it will be overwhelmingly approved again if need be,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the Obama administration to rethink their veto of this bill.

“If they won’t [support it], they ought to move quickly so that Congress has the chance to vote to override – the sooner the better. There will always be diplomatic concerns that get in the way of justice, but if the Saudis were complicit in 9/11, then they ought to be held accountable. If not, they have nothing to worry about,” he said.