Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

President Obama Should Veto JASTA

By Jack Goldsmith
Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 8:45 AM

Steve Vladeck and I disagreed about the virtues and vices of the original JASTA bill. But we agree that the version of JASTA now on its way to the President’s desk—which reflects dramatic changes introduced by Senator Cornyn last May—should be vetoed. As we explain at

The Cornyn substitute is thus the worst of all worlds — its partial stripping of sovereign immunity and its unmistakable symbolism to that effect will still likely cause many of the diplomatic and foreign relations harms described above, but its tweaks to the original bill will also almost certainly deny to the plaintiffs the very remedies JASTA was ostensibly intended to provide.

If the bill becomes law, it will spark years and years of what is sure to be inconclusive litigation over the possible Saudi role in 9/11, with no likely resolution for the attacks' victims and their families.

It's hard to vote against a bill that's packaged as being for the benefit of the 9/11 victims and their families, all the more so alongside the 15th anniversary of the attacks. But the bill that Congress passed last week represents both a symbolic affront to Saudi Arabia (and other nations) and a toothless vehicle for any actual recovery against them. A veto by President Obama is therefore not a slight to the 9/11 victims and their families. Congress already slighted them when it denuded their bill and then passed it.