For all the excitement about the U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), allowing the families of victims of 9/11 to sue the Saudi government in federal court, it turns out that the vote was nothing more than an illusion of the prospect of justice and accountability. A last-minute amendment to the final draft of the bill included a provision that allows for the U.S. attorney general and secretary of state to stop any pending legislation against the Saudis.
While JASTA would allow for families of victims of 9/11 to overcome the current restrictions, the new section of the bill would essentially allow the heads of the Justice and State departments to stay any lawsuits indefinitely. The provision allows for the organizational heads to simply “inform the judge hearing the case that the US government has engaged with Riyadh in diplomatic talks to resolve the issue,” according to the NY Post.
The section that was quietly inserted into the legislation — “Stay of Actions Pending State Negotiations” — allows the secretary of state to simply “certify” that the U.S. is “engaged in good-faith discussions with the foreign-state defendant concerning the resolution of claims against the foreign state.”
In turn, the attorney general can petition the court for an extension of the stay for “additional 180-day periods,” effectively delaying lawsuits against the Saudis indefinitely.