“This is a good result,” said Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism
Washington, D.C. – The 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, whose members are suing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its role in the September 11 Attacks, released the following statement after Attorney General Bill Barr refused to invoke “state secrets” to shield key evidence relating to the Saudi role. In particular, the Attorney General agreed to allow the court to see the name of the senior official who tasked two Saudi employees to give aid and support to the first-arriving hijackers.
“This is a good result,” said Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “The families are dedicated to getting to the truth, and we shouldn’t have to beg for this sort of basic information, or be kept in the dark, about the Saudi role in the attacks.”
“The Saudis are running out of rope,” said Don Migliori and Sean Carter, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the 9/11 litigation. “It was always clear that this information was not a ‘state secret’ and we’re pleased that the Attorney General agreed. We look forward to more disclosures in the weeks and months ahead.”
Don Migliori is a partner at Motley Rice LLC, and Sean Carter is a partner with Cozen O’Connor. They are co-chairs of the Plaintiff’s Executive Committee in the multi-district litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pending in federal district court in New York.
Since 2003, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has faced a civil lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (03 MDL 1570) alleging that the Kingdom aided and abetted and provided material support for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
After many years of legal wrangling regarding the scope of the law of sovereign immunity, Congress intervened decisively in September 2016 and passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). JASTA made clear that foreign sovereigns cannot evade accountability in U.S. courts when they aid and abet or provide material support to international terrorism on U.S. soil, such as the September 11 Attacks. JASTA’s passage was endorsed by then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign multiple times, with surrogates Reince Priebus and Rudy Giuliani, and Trump himself, favoring JASTA and the right of the 9/11 families to pursue their civil lawsuit against the Saudis.
In March of 2018, Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York rejected yet another attempt by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to dismiss the case. Judge Daniels then ordered discovery into the Saudi role in aiding and abetting the hijackers, including on matters relating to the activities of Saudi government officials Omar Ahmed al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy. Attorneys for the 9/11 families and related parties have been collecting information from the Saudis, the U.S government, and other parties throughout the world. Much of that information remains under seal, but it is extensive and probative to the case.
One of the issues relating to Thumairy and Bayoumi was a heavily redacted 2012 FBI Summary Report, which indicated that the FBI was investigating both them and an unnamed third party who “tasked” them to help the hijackers upon arrival. The 9/11 plaintiffs have demanded that the name of that third individual be released, but it appears that some elements in the U.S. government though that the name should be shielded from the families as a “state secret.” The Attorney General had the personal obligation to determine whether the identity of the unnamed “tasking” official should be treated in that fashion.
The public policy of the United States favors full disclosure of all details relating to the Saudi support for al Qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers. Congress made this clear by passing JASTA has continued to emphasize the need for full disclosure.
For example, on September 26, 2018, the U.S. Senate once again spoke to the importance of full disclosure, unanimously passing S. Res. 610 calling on the Department of Justice to declassify necessary information because “the survivors, the families of the victims, and the people of the United States deserve answers about the events and circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States.” That effort was led by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
Further, on March 8, 2019, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray to urge him to give the highest attention to the 9/11 families’ request for information, emphasizing, that “Congress has made clear its view that American interests would best be served by a full and fair inquiry into these matters.” (See March 8, 2019 letter from Senators John Cornyn, Charles Schumer, Chuck Grassley, Richard Blumenthal, and Kirsten Gillibrand to FBI Director Christopher Wray.) The Senators made clear that the “FBI should not withhold relevant information from the [9/11] victims or their families in these cases for any reason.”
The families will continue to press their case in order to uncover the truth regarding the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks. Today’s disclosure is helpful to that cause, but much more work must be done.
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