Pentagon chief: 9/11 bill could be used against US troops

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he is worried that a bill letting U.S. citizens sue the Saudi government over the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks would be used against U.S. troops. 

“I associate with myself with the intention of the bill, which is to honor the 9/11 families. It is a law enforcement matter, and we are not the ones who are dealing with it, and I am not an expert,” Carter said Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. 

{mosads}”But what might be a complication is that were another country to behave reciprocally, this could be a problem for our service members, and this is something that, at the Department of Defense, we are concerned about,” he added. 

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he agreed with Carter. 

The bill, dubbed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, is currently awaiting action by President Obama, and Capitol Hill Republicans say they have to votes to overturn an expected veto.

Saudi officials are suspected to have supported 9/11 hijackers, which they deny. However, victims have pressed for the chance to bring their cases to court. 

The bill passed both houses of Congress as frustration with Saudi-sponsored ideology believed to fuel Islamic extremism and terrorism has grown among the American public. 

The Obama administration opposes the bill, warning it could erode diplomatic immunity for U.S. officials. The European Union has said it opposes the bill as well for the same reason. 

The measure passed the House and Senate unanimously, but some lawmakers have  lingering concerns as it heads for a presidential veto. 

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) at the hearing asked the defense leaders for more detail on how the bill could affect troops, highlighting those concerns. 

“We need to make a decision probably next week, and I want to understand the full implications, not only on the victims’ families, but also on other U.S. interests around the world,” King said. “I would appreciate if that could be made available in the next few days.” 

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