With Powerful Videos, 9/11 Families Push Congress on JASTA

Widows of FDNY Rescue 5
Widows of FDNY Rescue 5 Urge Passage of JASTA

As the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks draws closer, family members of those lost in the attacks are making an emotional appeal to Congress to clear the way for their lawsuit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its alleged financial and logistical support of the hijackers.

In an effort led by the September 11th Advocates—five women who lost loved ones in the attacks—surviving family members and other concerned members of the public are posting videos to a Facebook page and a YouTube channel in which they urge the House of Representatives to promptly pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) when they return from summer recess on Tuesday, September 6.

Adjusting Sovereign Immunity Laws

The bill, which would modify U.S. sovereign immunity law to allow suits against foreign government sponsors of terrorism, passed the Senate by unanimous voice vote. Now, the September 11th Advocates are pressing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to schedule a vote on the measure before the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

Kristen Breitweiser
Kristen Breitweiser

“We believe that 15 years is long enough and it would honor our loved ones if they would pass JASTA and allow us to proceed with our path to justice and holding the Saudis accountable for their alleged role,” the group’s Kristen Breitweiser tells 28Pages.org. Breitweiser’s husband, Ron, was killed at the World Trade Center. She and fellow September 11th Advocates Patty Casazza, Monica Gabrielle, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken have been leading advocates for 9/11 transparency.

Though the measure passed the Senate unanimously, Breitweiser says JASTA faces formidable opposition down the stretch. Saudi Arabia has warned Congress and the White House that it may be compelled to divest upwards of a $750 billion dollars in U.S. assets if the measure passes, and President Obama has expressed reluctance to sign the bill if it advances to his desk.

Speaker Ryan and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman
Speaker Ryan and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman

“The reality is that the Saudis throw a lot of money around Washington, D.C. and they have a lot of influence. The Saudis have the president and the State Department on their side. I think that’s un-American, I think it’s unpatriotic, I think it’s disgusting, frankly. I don’t know how President Obama will be able to commemorate the 9/11 attacks, by giving a speech or laying a wreath or what have you, when he stabbed the 9/11 families in the back by supporting the Saudis over the 9/11 families,” says Breitweiser.

Civil Suit Could Bring New Evidence to Light

In July, Congress released 28 long-classified pages from a 2002 congressional inquiry into 9/11. The pages—which contained 97 redactions—revealed substantial new clues pointing toward Saudi connections to the hijackers. The Obama administration downplayed those clues, claiming that the 9/11 Commission thoroughly investigated them and found no Saudi government sponsorship of the attacks.

Breitweiser doesn’t buy it. “You’ve got plenty of information out there that the 9/11 Commission did not do a full investigation of the Saudis. Several 9/11 Commissioners themselves acknowledge that. Whether you want to talk about the budget, whether you want to talk about the way (9/11 Commission executive director) Philip Zelikow set it up, it was not a full investigation. That’s one of the reasons why we’re fighting for JASTA, because at least in a court system we’ll have discovery and more than anything we want the American public to see the evidence and see the information and be fully engaged and educated on the issue.”

9/11 Widow Meredith Fry
9/11 Widow Meredith Fry

First, though, they have to persuade the House and Obama to enact JASTA. The video project reinforces that family members and friends of those killed in the attacks are victims of a crime who deserve their day in court. “We wanted to make sure that every 9/11 family member would have their voice heard by every member of Congress, because we think 15 years is long enough and justice delayed is justice denied. We don’t have thousands of dollars to plunk down to sit next to Speaker Ryan at a campaign dinner, but we do have iPhones,” says Breitweiser.

Nearly 15 years after the shocking loss of her husband, her patience is running thin: “I’m really aggravated that my husband and 3,000 people were brutally murdered and my government has no interest in holding anyone accountable for it…I want to know that my husband’s life was not lost in vain.”

Three Ways You Can Help 9/11 Families Get Their Day in Court

Call Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at 202 225-0600 and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at 202 225-0400. Urge them to schedule a vote on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (HR 3815 S2040) before the 9/11 anniversary. Learn more ways to help at PassJASTA.org (which is not affiliated with 28Pages.org).

Post your own short video to the 9/11 Families’ Accountability Video Project. In under a minute, state your name and why you think it’s important to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for its alleged role in the attacks.

Spread awareness on social media. Share the video project’s Facebook page and share this article, too.

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