The Washington Times reports this morning:
Family members of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks say they have been blindsided by the Obama administration’s opposition to their lawsuit seeking damages from top members of the Saudi Arabian government over suspected financial links to the 9/11 attackers.
A series of closed-door meetings between the relatives’ groups and Justice Department officials, arranged as an update on Mr. Obama’s plan to close the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, turned instead into a sharp clash over the Saudi legal action, The Washington Times has learned.
“Physically, President Obama has done what previous presidents have done for a long time, which is bow down,” said Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America.
The relatives of the victims have signed onto a lawsuit seeking damages from four Saudi princes, saying they have been financing al Qaeda and thus are responsible in large part for the attacks that killed their loved ones.
The family members demanded to be be [sic] heard on the White House’s stance during a series of closed-door meetings at the State Department and the Justice Department last week.
The Supreme Court is expected to meet Thursday to decide whether to take the families’ case, which was rejected by a federal appeals court last year. The administration’s opposition to a Supreme Court review has dampened hopes among the 11 families for a reversal.
“Myself and the other family members are unanimously upset,” said Doug Connors, whose older brother was killed in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. “We feel that our government hasn’t supported us as victims.”
A U.S. district court dismissed the suit against the princes, a Saudi banker and a Saudi-based charity in 2006, and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in August 2008. … READ THE REST
Among the suit’s key assertions:
Senior Saudi officials and members of the royal family or their representatives served as executives or board members of the suspect charities when they were financing al-Qaeda operations. Overall, the Saudi government substantially controlled and financed the charities, the lawsuit alleges.
The charities laundered millions of dollars, some from the Saudi government, into al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and provided weapons, false travel and employment documents, and safe houses.
Regional offices of the charities employed, in senior positions, al-Qaeda operatives who helped coordinate support for terror cells.
Although the lawsuit argues that the Saudi government “intended” the 9/11 attacks to happen, the public record supporting that allegation is thin, and lawyers suing the kingdom have yet to generate direct evidence that any senior Saudi official conspired with al-Qaeda to attack the United States.
Instead, the lawsuit compiles hundreds of incremental disclosures from U.S government and other sources and weaves them together to form one basic assertion: Al-Qaeda’s development from ragtag regional terrorists into a global threat was fueled by Saudi money, some of it from the government.
And the charities, the lawsuit contends, were the money’s conduit.
With the help of charities affiliated with the Saudi government, the lawsuit contends, al-Qaeda spread to the vicious 1990s Balkans war, which pitted indigenous Muslims, their al-Qaeda allies, and other mujaheddin against Serbs and Croats.
The organization then leapfrogged to attack Western targets, including two U.S. embassies in East Africa, the U.S. destroyer Cole, and finally the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In May, the New York Times reported:
[Solicitor General] Ms. Kagan noted that the Supreme Court had historically looked to the executive branch to take the lead on such international matters because of “the potentially significant foreign relations consequences of subjecting another sovereign state to suit.” The government said in its brief that the victims’ families never alleged that the Saudi government or members of the royal family “personally committed” the acts of terrorism against the United States “or directed others to do so.” And it said the claims that were made — that the Saudis helped to finance the plots — fell “outside the scope” of the legal parameters for suing foreign governments or leaders.
Last June, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides exceptions that allow citizens to sue foreign nations:
Plaintiffs must show that whatever harm was caused was the result of criminal behavior or some other action outside the boundaries of normal government operations.
Once that high hurdle is cleared, U.S. citizens can sue under circumstances, including: Cases of personal injury or death, or damage to or loss of property, occurring in the United States if caused by negligent acts of omission or commission by a foreign government.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has done extensive reporting on the lawsuit:
Part 1 Pinning the blame for 9/11
Part 2: How Cozen took on a kingdom for 9/11 liability
A former al-Qaeda fighter accuses a Saudi charity
Law’s exceptions allow citizens to sue foreign nations
A timeline traces events in the lawsuit (pdf)
Cozen O’Connor dealt blow in 9/11 lawsuit
Another tack in terror-financier lawsuit
High court is urged to block 9/11 suit against Saudis
Phila. firm files brief on behalf of 9/11 victims (most recent report)
Project home page: Sept. 11 lawsuit: Suing the Saudis