Tag Archives: terrorism

Saudi Arabia Offers Absurd Case for Immunity from 9/11 Lawsuits

This week, Saudi Arabia is trying out a fascinating new argument to avoid accountability for its role in the 9/11 attacks.

The argument boils down to this: If state sponsors of extremism are punished for their actions, this will produce more extremism.

This novel claim comes after both houses of Congress unanimously passed a new bill called the Justice Against Foreign Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) last Friday. As the name suggests, the purpose of JASTA is to allow the victims of terrorism and their families to sue foreign governments that may have played a role in supporting terrorist attacks. Ordinarily, those governments would be protected from such suits by what is known as sovereign immunity; JASTA will narrow the circumstances in which sovereign immunity applies.

The most immediate effect of the legislation would be to allow victims of 9/11 another chance to sue Saudi Arabia for its involvement. Victims have attempted to sue the Saudi government before, but sovereign immunity provisions got in the way. Once that barrier is removed by JASTA, it is likely that the victims would prevail in a lawsuit against the Saudi government.

Naturally, the Saudi government has a strong interest in avoiding this outcome, and they are pulling out all the stops. Earlier this year, they threatened to sell off their holdings of US assets and government debt, which could destabilize bond markets around the world. Now, they are trying to play the terrorism card.

The new narrative was offered by a high-ranking Saudi official, Abdullah Al al-Sheikh in comments to a Saudi state news agency (emphasis added):

[JASTA risks] triggering chaos and instability in international relations and might contribute to supporting extremism, which is under intellectual siege, as the new legislation offers extremists a new pretext to lure youths to their extremist thoughts.

It is difficult to overstate how ridiculous this argument is.

First, extremists are usually defined by their use of violence, not their use of lawyers.

Moreover, it is nearly impossible to imagine a causal relationship whereby suing Saudi Arabia would increase the spread of violent extremism. But it is very easy to see how holding Saudi Arabia accountable is likely to reduce the prevalence of extremism.

Today, Saudi Arabia is one of the leading sponsors of extremist movements. We know this from many different sources. Perhaps the most telling citation is that the late Saudi foreign minister actually admitted to US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014 that the Saudis were supporting ISIS. To the Saudis, this wasn’t about terrorism, it was about the regional rivalry with Iran. But the end result looks the same.

Saudi policy also contributes to extremism in more indirect ways. The ongoing Yemen War is a perfect example of this. In that conflict, Saudi Arabia is fighting the Houthis, who also happen to be the strongest opponents of ISIS and Al Qaeda in the region. By attacking  the Houthis, the Saudis, with US backing, are effectively fighting on the same side as ISIS and Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Here are just two cases where it is clear that a 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia could improve matters considerably. Supporting terrorist groups and bombing a foreign country both take substantial financial resources. And with oil prices as low as they are, the Saudis are no longer immune to budgetary considerations. If the 9/11 lawsuit resulted in significant financial damages, this could reduce the amount of funds the Saudis have available for their more nefarious actions of late.

More importantly, the 9/11 lawsuits could bring a new public awareness about Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks. This could erode the US-Saudi relationship, and possibly cause the US government to reconsider its current policy of unconditional support. This might mean withdrawing support for the War in Yemen or blocking future US arms sales to the country. There have already been small pushes in Congress to question US support for Saudi Arabia. Imagine how much more compelling these arguments could be if everyday Americans knew that Saudi intelligence agents were paying the 9/11 hijackers.

In the end, it is somewhat surprising that Saudi Arabia would advance such an outlandish claim as the one above. As a leading sponsor of extremist movements, they ought to know perfectly well what contributes to the spread of extremism. But at least for now, they are pretending otherwise.

The Obama Administration Did Two Great Things This Week

It appears to be legacy-polishing time at the White House. This is the time late in the second term where presidents start to recall the various terrible decisions they made over their tenure in office, and start looking to balance out the ledger so they’ll still be remembered favorably. And since they aren’t standing for reelection anyway, they tend to undertake actions regardless of their popularity politically.

For this reason, it’s a time for both anxiety and cautious excitement, assuming there are at least a few issues where you share common ground with the president.

Continue reading The Obama Administration Did Two Great Things This Week

Yes, Obama’s Policies Helped Create ISIS, and Bush’s Helped Too

The latest hard-hitting journalism from the campaign trail is once again related to Donald Trump. The happy news is that there’s at least a kernel of truth in the latest remarks, and better still, it’s about foreign policy. Unfortunately, the bad news is that, as usual with Donald Trump, he doesn’t have many details to back it up, and the few details he does offer, are wrong.

Continue reading Yes, Obama’s Policies Helped Create ISIS, and Bush’s Helped Too

DC Transit terror plot involved a $245 donation and… nothing else

DC Metro; Source: Wired

Earlier this week, Americans were alarmed and instantly relieved to learn that the FBI had uncovered and arrested a dangerous terrorism suspect who was a member of the DC Transit police. The suspect was accused of aiding ISIS, and the nature of his employment was particularly ominous, which probably explains why it was included in most headlines.
Continue reading DC Transit terror plot involved a $245 donation and… nothing else

August 5, 2016

Bank of England; Source: The Telegraph


Another sign all is not well in the global economy…
Yesterday, the Bank of England announced a cut in interest rates to record lows and a new 70 billion pound batch of quantitative easing (money printing) in an effort to prevent the UK economy from declining further. It comes shortly after central bank of Australia also decided to cut interest rates earlier this week in an effort to stimulate their economy.These are more signs that the global economic system is under severe stress, and central banks are growing increasingly desperate.

Unfortunately, the standard remedy, as applied by the Bank of England, only postpones the inevitable collapse a bit longer. By injecting new money into the economy, directly and indirectly, it can keep stock prices inflated and possibly encourage consumer spending to temporarily prop up GDP. However, it cannot make the underlying companies more profitable, nor make the average customers more financially secure in the long-run. Indeed, it actually makes the underlying problems worse.

Which brings us to…
MetLife, a major financial institution and insurance company based in New York City, reported a massive drop in earnings yesterday. They saw a 48% drop compared to last year, to be exact. Ironically, the primary reason cited for the decline in earnings was–wait for it–low interest rates.

This comes after Deutsche Bank, the second largest bank in the EU, reported even more devastating results this quarter facing many of the same problems. Their earnings declined 98% relative to last year at this time.

In other words, the central banks and governments of the world, in the name of trying to stimulate and stabilize the economy, are wreaking utter havoc on the actual banks (and pensions) in the economy.

Which has us wondering just how stable the economy will be when major banks become bankrupt as a result. I’m sure it will be fine.

DC Transit terror plot involved a $245 donation and… nothing else
Earlier this week, Americans learned that the FBI had captured a terrorism suspect who was a member of the DC Transit Police. Given the nature of the suspect’s position, the story garnered national attention.

The suspect was accused of aiding ISIS in initial reports. The question remained, however, what did the DC terrorist suspect do?

Now we know.

His crime was allegedly sending $245 in telecommunications gift cards to a friend who supposedly lived in ISIS territory. In fact, his “friend” was an informant collaborating with the FBI, not with ISIS.

So as far as we know, the DC transit terrorism suspect planned no violence and had no interaction with ISIS. And now he faces up to 20 years in prison for his crimes.

Who else is psyched that Libertarian Vice Presidential Candidate Bill Weld wants to have 1,000 more FBI agents on the job to pursue serious homegrown terror threats like these? Not this guy.

Read our full write-up for more on this, or check out this piece from The Intercept.

Intervention Begets Intervention: Libya Edition
With the US apparently embarking on an open-ended bombing campaign in Libya, it is more important than ever to be skeptical about claims of success. A new article in The Guardian makes the case quite well. In it, Trevor Timm explains how each intervention paves the way for the next, describing what he calls the “War on Terror Circle of Life”:

It’s yet another episode of the War on Terror Circle of Life, where the US bombs a country and then funnels weapons into the region, which leads to chaos and the opportunity for terrorist organizations, which then leads more US bombing.

A smart and timely piece that’s worth a read if you have the time. It’s available here.