CIA director: 9/11 bill will have 'grave implications' for national security

CIA director: 9/11 bill will have 'grave implications' for national security
© Moriah Ratner

CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday just before the Senate is due to vote on the 9/11 bill that it would have "grave implications for the national security of the United States." 

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"I deeply understand the pain of September 11th—I grew up just across the Hudson River in New Jersey and have spent much of my career trying to prevent terrorists from harming our country. The events of that September day will stay with us forever.  I can only imagine the lasting anguish that the families of the victims must feel, and I sympathize with their devoted efforts to find justice," he said in a statement. 

"However, I believe that the 'Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act' (JASTA) will have grave implications for the national security of the United States. The most damaging consequence would be for those US Government officials who dutifully work overseas on behalf of our country." 

The bill would allow U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments for supporting terrorist attacks. The bill passed Congress earlier this year as public suspicions of Saudi Arabia's role in the 9/11 attacks grew. President Obama vetoed the bill, arguing it could erode immunity for U.S. officials overseas performing their jobs, but backers of the bill believe the president's veto will be overridden. 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats aim to repeal rules blocking Trump tax law workarounds Congress briefed on Iran after Saudi oil attacks Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would vote to override the president. 

Brennan's letter follows one by the president to members of Congress, as well as letters by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, warning about the bill's potential consequences for U.S. service members. 

"The principle of sovereign immunity protects US officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity. If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation’s officials in danger. No country has more to lose from undermining that principle than the United States—and few institutions would be at greater risk than CIA," Brennan said. 

"Any legislation that affects sovereignty immunity should take into account the associated risks to our national security," he added.