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US victims of terror attacks will be able to sue foreign governments, after Congress overrides Obama

Reuters/Larry Downing
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  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The US Senate and House voted overwhelmingly today, Sept. 28, to override president Obama’s veto of a controversial bill about the victims of terror attacks.

Now officialized, the ”Sept. 11″ bill allows victims and their families to sue the Saudi government in a US court, for its alleged role in the deadly 2001 terror attack. It amends a 1976 law that protected foreign governments from domestic lawsuits.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of backing 19 Sept. 11 attackers, including 15 Saudi nationals. But the Saudi government denies any involvement, and the 9/11 Commission came up empty-handed in 2004 when looking for evidence against the government or senior Saudi officials.

Obama vetoed the measure last week, arguing that letting Americans sue state sponsors of terrorist attacks inside the US could be an open invitation for retaliation: Other nations could file lawsuits against the US government for military actions that caused civilian deaths.

In a Sept. 27 letter to Senate leaders, Obama warned that the bill would erode sovereign immunity principles that prevent foreign litigants “from second-guessing our counterterrorism operations and other actions that we take every day.”

Despite the president and Saudi Arabia’s opposition to the measure, US lawmakers delivered an emotionally charged result, the Associated Press reported. With a 97-1 vote, the Senate was well above the two-thirds requirement. At 348 to 77, the House tally was a sweeping majority too.

It is the first time Obama’s decision is overridden by Congress in his two-term presidency.

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