Point/Counterpoint: Should Congress allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia?


Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that would allow the families of Americans killed in terrorist attacks in the U.S. to sue anyone or any entity involved, even foreign governments. If Saudi Arabia was involved in the 9/11 attacks, should U.S. citizens be allowed to sue them?

The bill would endanger Americans


The collective response by Americans (in government and out of it) to the attacks on 9/11 has always been complicated. At no point since the attacks has there been a unanimous opinion on how our government ought to handle the aftermath of the horrifying event.

Even time may not ever heal the wounds of 9/11, but the United States has slowly returned to normal. It is a new normal, to be sure, a normal in which citizens are on higher alert and the risk of racial profiling is increased, but a normal nonetheless.

The proposed legislation that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible for any role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in U.S. courts may provide some clarity and comfort to the families of 9/11 victims, but it may cause more harm than good.

As horrific as the events of 9/11 were and continue to be, in many ways, the world is a more dangerous place than it was 15 years ago. For U.S. citizens overseas, against whom the Saudi government has made threats, the passing of this legislation could prove very dangerous.

President Obama has said that he would veto the bill because the safety of these individuals may be put in jeopardy by passing the legislation, it is unwise to do so; I agree. In fact, according to the New York Times, officials from both parties have indicated that pursuing this legislation could prove problematic for U.S. citizens diplomatically and financially. And while economists have doubted the legitimacy of Saudi Arabia’s threats, they cannot be dismissed.

Perhaps even more important to note, there has been bipartisan questioning lately of the strength of U.S.-Saudi relations. So rather than force the Saudi’s hand in this delicate relationship, it would behoove the U.S. to avoid, at least during this combative time, pushing the limits of those diplomatic relationships. The United States’ partnerships with Middle Eastern countries have proven important over the past few years as ISIS and other terrorist organizations have grown in prominence.

While the question will remain — at least for the time being — of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 plot, blocking this legislation will keep the door closed on further trauma and terrorization of U.S. citizens.

The bill, after all, is not the legislation that should be used to prove to 9/11 victims’ families that the U.S. government cares about them and has not forgotten them. There are other bills — such as the Zadroga Act, about which I have previously written — that will go a longer way in proving to the American public that the federal government is pursuing justice.

It is obviously important to do everything in the government’s power to bring peace to those affected by 9/11, but it is not right to do so at the risk of endangering other Americans — even if that risk is small.


— Joe Lane


If Saudis are culpable, hold them accountable


International diplomacy is and will always be a complicated issue given the multitude of interests that need to be balanced. The maintenance of foreign interest is an inescapable part of modern life given the presence of globalization. No country exists in a vacuum, but it is the role of government to act in the interests of the American people.

Often, the careful balancing of foreign interests results in boons for the American constituency, but at times, there are moments of contention in which foreign interests appears to oppose American interests. Such is the case with the possibility of Congress enacting a bill that would allow U.S citizens to sue the Saudi Arabian government for involvement in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The release of classified 28 pages in a congressional investigation more than a decade old that may provide evidence of Saudi culpability has become intertwined with the potential bill that has so far received bipartisan support. However, the call to make these pages available to the public and movement forward with this legislation may have far-reaching ramifications. Rising escalations between the U.S and Saudi Arabia poses the threat of the Saudi Arabian government withdrawing some $750 billion worth of investments as well as potential adverse treatment of Americans abroad, both civilians and members of our military.

The benefits of holding Saudi Arabia responsible for any possible wrongdoing are not as tangible as the potential drawbacks. At the same time, the beneficial nature of an act does not need to be tangible, nor does its intangibility detract from its necessity. The litany of moving parts in any foreign-policy decision is not cause to ignore a matter of principle. Any and all decisions come with consequences that must be weighed against the gain for the deciding party, and in this situation, the deciding party is not the government but the people whose interests are represented by the government. We are talking about the families of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, and we are talking about those who want to see justice carried out.

Whether we as a nation decide to further examine the Saudi Arabian government’s involvement in the events on 9/11 will determine if we are a country that allows diplomatic interests to supersede principle. If the Saudi government is found to have been involved in that tragedy, then it should be up to the American people to decide how they wish to proceed.

The lives that were lost on that day and the corresponding loss of peace of mind can not be accounted for in monetary amounts. To me, pursuing this matter has less to do with tangible punishment that could be levied against the Saudi government and more to do with the need to make it clear that no entity or institution is above accountability for its wrongdoing.
— Marcus Brown


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