JASTA’s negative effects on America’s foreign affairs

Caroline Guthrie, Contributing Writer

On Sept. 28, Congress voted to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (JASTA), the first veto override of Obama’s presidency. Under this law, families impacted by 9/11 can now sue officials of the Saudi Arabian government. The decision led to much controversy, and rightly so.

“How can anyone look at these families in the eye and tell them that they shouldn’t have the opportunity to seek justice against a foreign government responsible for the death of their loved one?” one of the lead supporters of the bill, Republican Senator John Cornyn, said.

The statement refers to the law’s declaration that the American people have the right to sue a country with direct ties to state-sponsored terrorism. The Saudi Arabian government was allegedly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of financial ties to Al Qaeda, many members of which were of Saudi origin. However, in my opinion, shifting blame upon a whole nation for a crime committed by smaller group of people is unjust.

The ability for American families to sue countries and their diplomats replaces sovereign immunity, a law which once protected foreign nations from American prosecution. Although JASTA could provide closure for many families, I believe it is too dangerous for citizens to take such a significant role in foreign affairs. As the Obama administration has argued, JASTA could disrupt the currently amicable relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. In addition, this law may encourage foreign countries to allow lawsuits against Americans in retaliation to the enforcement of JASTA.

The new law exposes the tendency of members of Congress to vote in the way that will get them reelected at the end of a term. The Senate voted 97-1 and the House of Representatives voted 348-77 in favor of overriding President Obama’s veto. Many speculate their decisions were intended to appeal to American voters.

Although the families of 9/11 victims deserve compassion and closure, this new law has the potential to create tension between the United States and foreign countries. In light of recent acts of terrorism and shaky foreign affairs, this is a risk that America should not take.

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