By Tom Wyke for MailOnline and Associated Press
25 May 2016

The Senate’s unanimous passing of legislation that allows families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia may not be as groundbreaking as it was first believed.

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was initially reported as being a chance for the families to pursue damages from the Saudi government but now it has emerged a clause was inserted to water down the bill’s power.

The wording of the loophole states the Secretary of State just has to engage ‘in good-faith discussions with the foreign-state defendant concerning the resolution of claims against the foreign state,’ according to the NY Post.

It had been feared the legislation would trigger potential diplomatic issues with Riyadh, which was threatening to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy, if the bill is enacted.


Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate passed legislation Tuesday, May 17, 2016, that would allow families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia


Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister (pictured May 9), told Washington that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750bn in treasury securities and other assets in the U.S. before they could be frozen by American courts

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gives victims’ families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, D.C. area and Pennsylvania.

The House still must act on the legislation. However the loophole means that the legal action only requires discussion with Saudi Arabia.

Relatives of September 11 victims have urged the Obama administration to declassify and release U.S. intelligence that allegedly discusses possible Saudi involvement in the attacks.

Passage of the bill on Tuesday sends the message that the United States ‘will combat terrorism with every tool we have available, and that the victims of terrorist attacks in our country should have every means at their disposal to seek justice,’ Cornyn said.

Schumer said that any foreign government that aids terrorists who strike the U.S. ‘will pay a price if it is proven they have done so’.

Senate Democrats had firmly supported the legislation, putting them at odds with the Obama administration.

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