Justice Department's Brief Supporting Immunity for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 Victim's Suit Misconstrues Sovereign Immunity and Jurisdictional Scope of the Anti-Terrorism Act, According to Family of 9/11 Victim and Former FBI Agent John O'Neill
/PRNewswire / -- The following is a statement from the family of John O'Neill, a retired Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations with over 25 years of service in positions including head of the Counter-terrorism section and head of the National Security Division of the New York Field Office. Mr. O'Neill died on September 11, 2001, along with close to 3,000 other innocent individuals in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. At the time of his death, he was Director of Security at the World Trade Center and was killed assisting with the evacuation that ensured thousands made it to safety while sacrificing his own life so that others might live.
The O'Neill family stated:
Ten days ago, in a disturbing policy decision, the United States Government announced in a brief filed with the Supreme Court that it was supporting efforts by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and members of the Saudi royal family to defeat a long-running lawsuit seeking to hold them liable for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Department of Justice urged that the Court should not hear the matter, supporting the Kingdom's position that Saudi Arabia and the royal family have immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act and other common law immunities, and that the United States courts lack jurisdiction, and thus cannot be held responsible for supporting and financing terrorists and terrorist attacks directed at America. Today, our attorneys filed a brief in response requesting that the Supreme Court hold that the Government's arguments should be disregarded and the victims of 9/11 are entitled to their day in court.
John O'Neill spent his life fighting for justice on behalf of the American people. While serving his country at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he demanded that the facts about terrorism be investigated with an open and impartial eye so that all perpetrators could be brought to justice in U.S. Courts. In his service as the head of the FBI's Counter-terrorism Section, with responsibilities for the Bureau's Al Qaeda investigations, and as head of the National Security Division of the New York Field Office, he fought for the truth when he investigated the Khobar Tower bombings, the U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa, and the USS Cole bombing. During his career, John O'Neill was one of the few voices who relentlessly tried to bring attention to the true threat of Al Qaeda to this country. He was silenced on 9/11 when, literally days after retiring from the FBI, he began serving as Chief of Security for the World Trade Center and perished helping others escape from the World Trade Center. We are deeply saddened and dismayed that the government he served for more than 25 years has turned its back on justice and now seeks to deny us our day in court to pursue the truth about those who finance and support terrorism on America's soil and around the globe.
John O'Neill always felt that it was critical to display both to the American people and the world that terrorists can be brought to justice; that facts be shown to the citizens of the world; and that the American judicial system was the appropriate forum. He sought and fought for the truth where others were blinded.
The Justice Department's brief concedes that the Court of Appeals was wrong on the law, as our attorneys have alleged.
The Justice Department's brief acknowledges that there is a split in authority, which we have been informed is the basis for Supreme Court review.
The Justice Department's brief, however, propounds an erroneous construction of the sovereign immunity statute, in a feeble attempt to stop the case and protect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and it cohorts from facing the truth of their actions. That is plain wrong in any case; in this particular situation it dishonors the memory of John O'Neill and the thousands of other victims. It is simply not what we would expect our Government to do.
The entire world recognized that Al Qaeda was a terrorist organization; yet certain countries, organizations, and individuals continued to support this known terrorist threat. Normally, actions have consequences; all those who materially support terrorism should be held accountable.
We trust that the rule of law will be followed, and that the Supreme Court will accept the case for review.
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