The House’s Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Tuesday where legislators from each party took cracks at Saudi Arabia.
The country has come under heavy criticism of late after the Senate unanimously approved legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue over Saudi Arabia’s alleged connections to Al Qaeda.
“If a foreign country — any country — can be shown to have significantly supported a terrorist attack on the United States, the victims and their families ought to be able to sue that foreign country, no matter who it is,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), the head of the subcommittee on terrorism and a co-sponsor of the bill that would allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, said. “Like any other issue, we should let a jury decide that issue and the damages, if any.”
Saudi Arabia has responded by denying any and all connections to the 9/11 hijackers — 15 of whom were Saudi nationals — and subsequently launched a lobbying campaign to paint itself as a credible U.S. ally in the war on terror. The White House also opposes the bill and said it would veto any such legislation. Saudi, meanwhile, ominously warned that passing the bill could have dire consequences.
The links between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 hijackers are mostly speculative. A number of congressional members who have read the classified 28 pages from a congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks suggest that that the Saudi royal family may have known about or even indirectly aided Al Qaeda. Parts of the 28 pages are suspected to be released in coming weeks, a motion that the Kingdom supports.
“Those are a lot of coincidences, and that’s a lot of smoke,” former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN) told 60 Minutes in April. “Is that enough to make you squirm and uncomfortable, and dig harder—and declassify these 28 pages? Absolutely.”
During Tuesday’s House hearing, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked a panel of four Saudi experts if they believed the Saudi royal family — who runs the country — knew of the attack before hand. “Two experts, Karen Elliot House of the Belfer Center and Daniel Byman of Georgetown University, raised their hands, while [former 9/11 commissioner Tim] Roemer and Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute kept their hands down,” Foreign Policy reported. “Later, Roemer said the question was too complex to deal with in an up-or-down fashion, but Rohrabacher rejected that view. ‘The Saudis have been financing terrorism now for 20 years at least,’ Rohrabacher said.”
Not all congressional members, however, believe that the bill should be passed.
“If we look at it and allow discovery — the poking-around of a typical trial lawyer’s look-see — then the rest of the world will likely respond,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said on Tuesday. “When the rest of the world likely responds, there is no question that the actions of U.S. persons or U.S. entities, including but not limited to our intelligence community, will have us in courts around the world.”