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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Activist 9/11 Widows: Obama Shielding Saudis from Justice

Kristen Breitweiser
Kristen Breitweiser

Five activist 9/11 widows have called new attention to the classification of 28 pages from a congressional intelligence inquiry that are said to implicate Saudi Arabia in financing the attacks that killed their husbands.

In a pointed piece for Huffington Post that was written by Kristen Breitweiser and co-signed by Patty Casazza, Monica Gabrielle, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken, the widows accuse the Obama administration of subordinating 9/11 justice to the U.S. government’s maintenance of its cozy relationship with the Saudi royals. The five women all served on the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission.

Throughout a more than 14-year quest for 9/11 transparency, Breitweiser says, “my government has fought me tooth and nail.” She points to the 28 pages as a prime example of that obstructionism:

“There are 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry of Congress (an investigation into the U.S. government intelligence failures prior to 9/11) that have remained classified and hidden away from the American public by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. These 28 pages allegedly prove that the Saudis had a controlling hand in funding the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 innocent people.

Now, it’s more than fair to say that if these 28 pages blamed the Iraqis or the Iranians for financing the 9/11 attacks, they would have been released years ago. Unfortunately, since the 28 pages allegedly implicate the Saudis, they’re likely to remain secret and kept away from the American public forever.

Knowing that evidence of your husband’s murder is being specifically withheld from you by the president — with the sole intent to protect the terrorists and their financial backers — is not something any American should ever have to tolerate.”

Breitweiser, whose husband, Ron, worked on the 94th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower 2, describes other examples of the U.S. government’s efforts to shield Saudi Arabia from scrutiny of its alleged hand in the 9/11 attacks.

The Department of Justice, for example, counseled the Supreme Court to deny taking a case presented by 9/11 family members arguing that the kingdom shouldn’t enjoy immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The pattern extends into the legislative branch: the proposed Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would smooth the path for claims against state sponsors of terror, was stymied by “a whisper campaign with no fingerprints.”

“And, those whispers sounded something like this: if JASTA passes, the Saudis will bankrupt our economy by withdrawing $800 billion worth of T-bonds, and even worse, if JASTA passes, the Saudis will stop protecting and sharing intelligence information with the U.S. and leave us vulnerable to an ISIS attack.

It would seem that the same group of people who fought against the release of the 28 pages, and our case being heard by the Supreme Court, are at it once again, this time opposing JASTA and labeling it a diplomatic disaster.”

Breitweiser catalogs many reasons for the government’s protection of Saudi Arabia, including weapons deals, reliance on Saudi funding of Syrian insurgents, the kingdom’s provision of drone bases and aggressive Saudi payments to lobbying firms with ties to the current and previous White House administrations.

Obama will visit Saudi Arabia on April 21. Writes Breitweiser: “I only wish I could adequately relay the disgust I have in my heart when I anticipate having to see my president smiling, laughing, and joking with his ‘special Saudi friends’ — the very same people who I believe underwrote the murder of my husband and nearly 3,000 others.”

Read the entire piece here, then help these 9/11 family members by taking action on this issue today.

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