No need to veto JASTA
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Last week the House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing a bill commonly known as JASTA that would create a statutory mechanism for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States to sue the sovereign nation of Saudi Arabia.

Defenders of the Kingdom frequently cite the 9/11 Commission report as evidence that the Saudis were not involved.  This is not true.  It is true that the Commission did not conclude that the Saudis were guilty but we most definitely did not conclude that they were not involved.  In fact there was considerable evidence suggesting just the opposite.

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Last week the New York Times published a lengthy and important article discussing Saudi Arabia’s paramount role in spreading the radical Wahhabi ideology that is embraced by Sunni terrorist organizations like al Qaeda, ISIS, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram, among others.  The report comes on the heels of the long overdue declassification of 28 pages of the 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry Report on 9/11, which by any fair reading detail a multiplicity of disturbing links between Saudi government employees and institutions and al Qaeda, and as 9/11 family members continue to press for the opportunity to present evidence of Saudi government involvement in our courts.  

Now that JASTA has been passed there are some traditional foreign and defense policy experts urging the President to veto the bill claiming it will damage our relationship with the Kingdom.  I for one seriously doubt this will happen.  However, if it does I am willing to tolerate the consequences because the primary result will be beneficial to the security of the United States.

As a member of the 9/11 Commission and a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have long felt that Saudi Arabia’s vast campaign to propagate Wahhabi Islam is a dangerous threat to our national security.

This was among the most important issues examined by the 9/11 Commission.  Our Commission made this clear in our final report, explaining that Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders “draw on a long tradition of extreme intolerance” within the Wahhabi variant of Islam.  We stated plainly that the Saudi government had been using its vast oil wealth to promote that very stream of Islam throughout the world since the early 1980’s, and we cautioned that the threat we faced was “not just ‘terrorism,’ some generic evil,” but rather “Islamist terrorism” and “its ideology,” an ideology we plainly identified as Wahhabism. We urged that our strategy had to focus on prevailing in the “longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism,” the very ideology the Saudis had spent billions of dollars to spread across the globe.

Despite these findings and recommendations, the Saudi government has been engaged in a massive PR campaign in recent months to promote the remarkable and implausible claim that our Commission’s investigation exonerated the Kingdom of any culpability for the rise of al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks themselves.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is well past time to set the record straight concerning the Saudis and 9/11 once and for all.

In addition to our clear findings concerning the Kingdom’s primary role in spreading the virulent ideology that inspired Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders throughout the globe, our Commission was very clear in stating that “al Qaeda found fertile fund-raising ground in Saudi Arabia, where extreme religious views are common.”  We also explained that religious institutions sponsored by the Saudi government as part of its effort to propagate Wahhabi Islam were deeply involved in supporting al Qaeda on both financial and operational levels.  We also noted that many of these institutions were supervised by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which used them “to spread Wahhabi beliefs throughout the world.”

Stated most simply, our investigation found substantial evidence that one or more Saudi government employees located in the United States provided direct aid and support to the 9/11 hijackers.  Those Saudi government employees were associated with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the same arm of the Saudi government that had primary responsibility for implementing the Kingdom’s global efforts to propagate the radical Wahhabi stream of Islam, and that was responsible for supervising Wahhabi proselytizing organizations that directly sponsored al Qaeda, like Al Haramain. 

That is why I believe President Obama should resist all efforts to convince him to veto JASTA.  Signing this bill into law will be an act of justice and will help make the United States homeland a safer place to live.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey served in the U.S. Senate from 1989-2001 and served as a member of the 9/11 Commission.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.