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Obama vetoes Sept. 11 Saudi bill, sets up showdown with Congress

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday, Sept. 23, vetoed legislation allowing families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, which could prompt Congress to overturn his decision with a rare veto override, the first of hi...

Obama
Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday, Sept. 23, vetoed legislation allowing families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, which could prompt Congress to overturn his decision with a rare veto override, the first of his presidency.

Obama said the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act would hurt U.S. national security and harm important alliances, while shifting crucial terrorism-related issues from policy officials into the hands of the courts.
The bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives in reaction to long-running suspicions, denied by Saudi Arabia, that hijackers of the four U.S. jetliners that attacked the United States in 2001 were backed by the Saudi government.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Obama said other countries could use the law, known as JASTA, as an excuse to sue U.S. diplomats, members of the military or companies -- even for actions of foreign organizations that had received U.S. aid, equipment or training.
"Removing sovereign immunity in U.S. courts from foreign governments that are not designated as state sponsors of terrorism, based solely on allegations that such foreign governments' actions abroad had a connection to terrorism-related injuries on U.S. soil, threatens to undermine these longstanding principles that protect the United States, our forces, and our personnel," Obama said in a statement.
Senator Chuck Schumer, who co-wrote the legislation and has championed it, immediately made clear how difficult it will be for Obama to sustain the veto. Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, issued a statement within moments of receiving the veto, promising that it would be “swiftly and soundly overturned.”

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