Justice at Last for the 9/11 Victims?

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New York City Firefighter at Ground Zero – (Photo: JustFamilies.com)

Last week marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11 tragedies that killed 2,976 and injured over 6,000 in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Since then families of the victims have sought answers as to how the nineteen Muslims accused of hijacking the four planes to carry out the attacks got that far. And while Osama bin Laden had been accused (and killed) for plotting the terror acts of that day — this led to the American invasion of Afghanistan since the Taliban had given him and fellow al-Qaeda’s operatives sanctuary — the alleged mastermind of 9/11 was his al-Qaeda associate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who, albeit under apparent torture, admitted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the terrorist plot.

Aside that fifteen out of nineteen men who hijacked the planes on September 11 were subjects of Saudi Arabia, there has been near-conclusive evidence showing that citizens from the kingdom, not excluding royal family members, were at least partially behind the 9/11 attacks. Even Donald Trump during the presidential campaign in 2016  indicated that the Saudis were directly involved in the 9/11 attacks: “It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi; take a look at Saudi Arabia, open up the documents.” This would be sustained by facts proving their past and continual involvement in global jihad or holy war, such as:

  • slaves taken by ISIS being sold in auctions in the kingdom,
  • funding Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s former financial minister, Agha Jan Motasim, regular travels to Saudi Arabia to raise millions of dollars, and
  • promoting (along with Kuwait and Qatar) and funding the growth of the jihadist Salafi ideology in Germany, where it has already attracted ten thousand followers and continues to expand, according to a leaked intelligence report from Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency and Federal Intelligence Service;
  • financially supporting Boko Haram.
Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son's name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. Photo by Justin Lane/Reuters
Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son’s name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. – (Photo by Justin Lane/Reuters)

In 2016 the victims’ families suspecting Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks were authorized through the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act to file suit against the Saudis; the legislation negates the international legal principle of ‘sovereign immunity’ for governments, permitting parties injured by terrorist acts in the United States to sue foreign governments where complicity in an act of terrorism is proven — the bill had been vetoed by President Barak Obama but overridden by Congress. 

Under the Obama administration, the government tried to keep a four-page 2012 summary of an FBI inquiry that would have exposed the names of three Saudis suspected of assisting two of the hijackers. Two names, Fahad al-Thumairy and Omar al-Bayoumi, were released; both linked to the Saudi government, according to FBI and congressional documents. The Trump administration, under heavy pressure from the families, decided last Thursday to declassify the name of the third individual but declined to release the name publicly.

The name of the person, which the 9/11 families believe may support their allegation of Saudi involvement in the terror attacks, will be disclosed to the plaintiff’s lawyers under a protective order. The order makes it illegal, however, for those attorneys to release the name to the public, meaning the identity of the individual will remain a secret — at least for now. Yet the conclusive evidence to prove Saudi involvement may rely exclusively on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who indicated a willingness to cooperate in a lawsuit filed by victims seeking damages from Saudi Arabia, providing the US decides not to seek the death penalty against him.

Trump has been openly supportive of Mohammed bin Salman during his anti-corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
President Donald Trump and Prince Mohammed bin Salman – (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Bruce Fein, former US associate deputy attorney general, said the lawsuit had major financial implications for Saudi Arabia. “If the plaintiffs win in this case, it could be hundreds of billions of dollars. You have over 3,000 plaintiffs, compensatory plus punitive damages and a jury very hostile to Saudi Arabia, it could virtually bankrupt Saudi Arabia. All their assets in the US and elsewhere could be seized,” Fein said. This would create a dilemma for Trump because of his steadfast ties with the effective ruler of the kingdom, Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) notwithstanding his four-year genocidal war in Yemen and the near conclusive evidence provided by the  CIA proving that he ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi — a veteran Saudi journalist and American permanent resident who had been writing articles critical of Riyadh — inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

Whether or not the victims’ families will have a closure to their eighteen-year trauma may ultimately depend if President Trump makes a plea bargain with Mohammad. Fien stated: “So, the incentive for Mr. Trump as opposed to others to waive is not very great. But still, it may be in the year 2020 that the US population in general is not going to be sympathetic to Mr. Trump running and seeking their vote if it looks like he’s taking the side of Saudi Arabia over the victims of 9/11.” Let us hope it is the latter and not the former to succeed.