9/11 Families Bolster Claims Against Saudi Government

Submit New Filing to Federal Court in New York 

Washington, D.C. – Thousands of 9/11 family members and survivors have today urged a federal court in New York to revive claims that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia funded and supported al Qaeda as it prepared for the September 11th attacks. The suits accuse the Kingdom of a singular role in providing essential resources that enabled al Qaeda to grow into a terrorist organization that killed nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil, injured scores more, and continues to affect the lives of others in the years since the attacks.

The recent court filing came on the heels of two recent decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that were the first appellate cases to address the scope of “aiding and abetting” liability under the landmark 2016 law, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Congress had passed JASTA in part to enable the 9/11 families’ claims against the Kingdom to proceed, including those aimed at indirect material support. Those cases are Kaplan v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, 999 F.3d 842 (2d Cir. 2021) and Honickman v. BLOM Bank SAL, 6 F.4th 487 (2d Cir. 2021).

Today’s filing – which you can read here – follows a 2018 decision by the federal district court authorizing discovery as to the involvement of Saudi government agents in providing an essential support network for the 9/11 hijackers.  That discovery is ongoing, but the 2018 decision did not allow the families to proceed with their additional claims based on the Kingdoms’ financial and other material support for al Qaeda, often delivered through so-called “charities,” under the theory that that conduct could not give rise to legal liability under JASTA. The Second Circuit has now held that JASTA’s “aiding and abetting” provisions should be read far more broadly.

Those decisions confirm that terrorist sponsors cannot evade accountability by channeling monies through “middle men” or by claiming that the specific contributions cannot be traced to a specific attack, the families’ filing says.  The Kingdom has sought to exploit this erroneous understanding of JASTA to avoid having to answer for claims that charities that Saudi Arabia established and funded to export the radical Wahhabi variant of Islam globally provided essential support to al Qaeda for nearly a decade leading up to 9/11.

The latest move by the 9/11 families comes on top of the ongoing claims against the Kingdom for its direct, critical support to the first-arriving hijackers in Southern California. It also comes only three months after President Joe Biden issued an executive order guaranteeing the release of thousands of pages of government evidence that is expected to support the families’ case. That release has begun and is ongoing.

Terry Strada, the Chair of 9/11 Families United, whose husband, Tom, was murdered in the World Trade Center, said “when you look at how al Qaeda grew into the deadly terrorist organization that attacked us on 9/11, every trail – money, recruitment, ideology, cover organizations – leads back to Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s insidious campaign to spread Wahhabi extremism globally.  It is well past time that we require Saudi Arabia to face justice for the full range of its activities that enabled al Qaeda to attack us on 9/11.”  Strada explained that, while the evidence that Saudi government agents provided critical support to the Southern California hijackers is overwhelming, the Kingdom’s support and encouragement of al Qaeda went far beyond that direct assistance and cannot be ignored. “Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for funding al Qaeda and enabling al Qaeda to flourish on its dime.”

About 9/11 Families United:

9/11 Families United is an organization consisting of family members of those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as many of those who survived, were injured in or sickened from the attacks, a community that numbers well over 10,000.  The above-referenced litigation, In Re: Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under case #03-MD-01570.