The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, rejecting the fierce objections of a US ally and setting Congress on a collision course with the Obama administration, the AP reports. The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, approved by voice vote, had triggered a threat from Riyadh to pull billions of dollars from the US economy if the bill is enacted. The legislation, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-NY, gives victims' families the right to sue in US court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, DC, area, and Pennsylvania.
The House still must act on the legislation. Relatives of Sept. 11 victims have urged the Obama administration to declassify and release 28 pages of US intelligence that allegedly discusses possible Saudi involvement in the attacks. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir denied earlier this month that the kingdom made any threats over the bill. He said Riyadh had warned that investor confidence in the US would shrink if the bill became law. "In fact, what they [Congress] are doing is stripping the principle of sovereign immunities, which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle," Al-Jubeir said in a May 3 statement. The Treasury Department said Monday that Saudi Arabia in March held $116.8 billion in Treasury debt. (The unreleased US intelligence points to Saudi officials "supporting" 9/11, per a 9/11 panel member.)