The Obama administration is trying to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would allow the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for the country’s alleged part in the terrorist attack.
The issue has grown in importance since a 60 Minutes investigation, released earlier in April, that explored the possible link between Saudi officials and the 9/11 attack, CBS notes. The investigation specifically pointed to a section of a classified congressional report, which it said may contain additional information regarding 9/11.
"I’m completely outraged," Loria Van Auken, whose husband died in the north tower, told CBS.
"If someone you love was murdered and the person was just able to go away Scott free, would you be okay with that?" she added. "I don’t think anyone would."
However, the Obama administration officials said that if the 9/11 victims' relatives sue, U.S. citizens could be exposed to legal retaliation abroad, according to The New York Times.
The Senate bill would remove the immunity given to foreign governments in U.S. courts in cases where the support of terrorist acts on U.S. soil is being investigated.
Secretary of State John Kerry warned that if the bill passes, other countries could follow suit.
"[Thee bill would] take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent," Kerry said in February, according to The New York Times.
The report of the 9/11 Commission uncovered "no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization."
However, critics have pointed out that the wording of this conclusion leaves open the possibility that lower level representatives, or a section of the government, were involved in providing funds and support for the 9/11 terrorists.
"I think it is implausible to believe that 19 people — most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many of whom didn’t have a high school education— could’ve carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States,” former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham of Florida, who served as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee during and after 9/11, said, according to CBS.
In a visit to Washington, D.C., in March, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir warned Congress that Saudi Arabia would consider selling up to $750 billion in U.S. assets it holds if legislation allowing the lawsuit is passed, The New York Times notes.
Saudi Arabia was critical of the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement in 2015 with Iran, which is a regional rival.
However, Saudi Arabia remains a close U.S. ally, as shown by its reliance on U.S. targeting equipment and bombs for its war in Yemen, which it has been fighting for over a year.