Barack Obama will on Friday veto legislation allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, risking public outrage and the first congressional override of his presidency.
The White House confirmed Thursday that Obama would veto the legislation — unanimously passed by Congress — allowing 9/11 families to launch civil suits against Riyadh.
“We believe this is a bad bill,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “It’s why the president’s going to veto it.”
The White House argues the legislation would undermine sovereign immunity and potentially expose US officials and service members to litigation.
Declassified documents showed US intelligence had multiple suspicions about links between the Saudi government and the attackers, but no link has definitively been proven.
“While in the United States, some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” a finding read.
But a victory for the White House could help ease relations with Saudi Arabia, already strained by Obama’s engagement with Iran and the July release of a secret report on Saudi’s involvement in the attacks.
A senior Saudi Prince reportedly threatened to pull billions of dollars out of US assets if it becomes law, but Saudi officials now distance themselves from that alleged threat.
The White House is getting some backing from diplomatic allies who share concerns about the United States becoming a venue for citizens to sue governments.
In a diplomatic protest note obtained by AFP, the European Union warned the rules would be “in conflict with fundamental principles of international law.”
“State immunity is a central pillar of the international legal order,” the “demarche” noted, adding that other countries could take “reciprocal action.”
In a letter to lawmakers, also seen by AFP, former secretary of defense William Cohen, former CIA boss Michael Morell and Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s national security advisor were among a group of high profile security figures to warn the legislation would hurt US interests.
“Our national security interests, our capacity to fight terrorism and our leadership role in the world would be put in serious jeopardy,” they said.