House Unanimously Passes JASTA Bill; Justice for 9/11 Families Can Begin
On Friday, two days before the 15th anniversary of the British-Saudi engineered attacks on September 11, 2001, the House of Representatives passed by unanimous acclamation the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), despite the opposition of President Barack Obama, and continuing threats from Saudi Arabia, which is being sued by the victims and families of the 9/11 terrorism. The vote came after the intense lobbying efforts by the 9/11 families, some of whom were present in the House gallery, and by former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), former head of the Joint Congressional Committee whose 800-page investigation of 9/11 in 2002 produced the 28-page chapter.
In brief, the JASTA bill—unless vetoed by Obama, as he threatens—will allow the plaintiffs to finally present their evidence against Saudi Arabia, a right which had been denied by Federal courts in the years-long lawsuit, under the claim of "sovereign immunity."
In the intense and often passionate statements on the floor of the House, which was limited to 20 minutes under the "suspension of rules," (a procedure that allowed the bill to be moved quickly to a vote), more than a dozen members of the House from both parties gave their support to the bill that was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in May.
Speaker after speaker decried the injustice that had allowed the sponsors of the 19 hijackers whose attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in a single morning on Sept. 11, 2001, to freely "walk the streets of foreign capitals," in the words of New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D).
Not a single member of the House breathed a word in opposition to the bill. However, already the U.S. press is blacking out the substance of the powerful debate by giving wide coverage of the vote, but almost no reports on the speeches.
The proceedings were opened by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers (D), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and a founder and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rep. Conyers made clear that the White House should not and must not be allowed to veto or block the bill.
"Because of the moral imperative of enacting legislation and the seriousness of the concerns raised," Conyers said, he would remain hopeful that Congress could resolve the White House objects and get this bill "signed into law by the president."
Two Representatives, Republican Ted Poe and Democrat Lloyd Doggett, both of Texas, specifically referenced the role of Saudi Arabia as came out in the "28 pages."
"Look around the world.... Wherever you see evidence of radical Islam, that extremism can usually be traced to preachers of hate from Saudi Arabia," Doggett stated. "The kingdom has blood on its hands. Is it the blood of the victims of 9/11? Possibly.... Give these 9/11 families their day in court. And accord the Saudis all of the rights in that judicial proceeding they so regularly deny their own citizens."
Rep. Poe argued that "our country changed forever" on Sept. 11, 2001, and
"Based on the 28 pages held secret for years, there may be evidence that the country of Saudi Arabia and their officials may have some involvement in planning the elements of that attack.... That's what the courtroom is for.... [that] is an issue for a jury of American to decide."
Passage of the JASTA bill was an overdue victory after a years-long battle waged by the 9/11 families who have been lobbying Congress non-stop since the release of the "28 pages" on July 15th, by former Sen. Bob Graham, by a national effort of activists in support of the 9/11 families, and by the LaRouche movement, whose LaRouche PAC website has filmed and documented every major event on Capitol Hill over the last two years to make the release of the 28 pages a strategic issues in the fight against terrorism.
The CSPAN coverage of the debate and vote can be found here.