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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Columns

Veto override will affect US in the long run


It has been about two weeks since the first congressional override of President Barack Obama’s veto against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

The bill was introduced in September 2015 to “provide civil litigants with the broadest possible basis… to seek relief against persons, entities, and foreign countries… that have provided material support, directly or indirectly, to foreign organizations or persons that engage in terrorist activities against the United States.”

The bill was supported by both Republicans and Democrats who say the bill will bring a means of finding justice for 9/11.

At first glance, this seems like a noble cause that is long overdue (and it is marketed as such), but the implications of widening criteria for international tort law are much larger.

The idea that this bill would bring closure, financially or otherwise, to the families of victims of the attack is an egregious PR move. I would be willing to bet that even the president wouldn’t have risked vetoing it if he was up for reelection.

It’s hard to believe the argument that this is solely an expansion of what the U.S. defines as sovereign immunity, the doctrine that generally protects governments from civil suits or criminal prosecution, considering the effective date of the bill is “on or after September 11, 2001.”

Recently, Congress published the redacted “28 pages” of a 2002 congressional inquiry into 9/11 that has fueled a lot of speculation around Saudi Arabia’s role on that day. The extent to which the kingdom played a role in the attacks, or lack thereof, remains unclear, but this should not influence Congress to hastily pass a bill that could negatively impact the U.S.

The U.S. signed a nuclear deal with and provided $400 million to Iran, one of the three countries our government explicitly claims to be a state sponsor of terror. The override is likely to expose ties to our allies’ less-than-reputable activities overseas — particularly in Israel.

The whole ordeal could become a foreign-policy nightmare, especially when it comes to the potential of court-ordered discovery shedding light on our intelligence community’s far-reaching network.

The biggest slap in the face concerning this bill is that even in the aftermath of the Iraq War — where Americans lost their lives from another hasty political campaign to find justice for 9/11 — Iraq is still exempt from their previous designations as a state sponsor of terror and retain jurisdictional immunity as a foreign state.

Why? Because of the U.S. had invested too much of their commercial entities in the country to tie them up in litigation and subject these assets to the possibility of punitive damages. Think about that.

As a country, we need to stop wielding capricious authority to designate terrorists without regard to hypocrisy. We need to stop doing it under the guise of patriotic retaliation for the tragedy that occurred 15 years ago.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Bell is an MBA graduate student and can be reached at [email protected]

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