Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir (l., with Secretary of State John Kerry) said the Arab nation would sell off $750 billion of its U.S. assets if the controversial legislation is passed.

Source: NY Daily News

Outraged 9/11 families accused Saudi Arabian officials Saturday of blackmailing the U.S. to hide their alleged role as financiers of the World Trade Center terrorists.

The fierce attacks came after a Saturday report that the Saudis threatened to sell off up to $750 billion in U.S. assets if Congress passes legislation allowing its government to be held liable in 9/11-related lawsuits.

Families who lost loved ones in the terror attacks say President Obama, who is lobbying intensively to derail the bill, according to The New York Times, is on the wrong side of the issue.

“I’m furious. This is a slap in the face to the 9/11 families,” said Jim Riches, the retired FDNY deputy chief whose firefighter son Jimmy died in the Trade Center rubble.

“Let them keep their money. We don’t want their money. It’s not worth 3,000 American lives. Call their bluff.”

Riches slammed Obama, five months shy of the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

“How in his right conscience can he do this?” Riches asked. “Meanwhile, they slap us in the face. Stand up for our principles.”

caption; Todd Maisel/New York Daily News

The bill would allow legal action against other countries in cases of an attack on American soil — which could allow the country to be held liable for the Sept. 11 attacks.


Terry Strada, whose husband Thomas was a Cantor Fitzgerald bond broker on the 104th floor, echoed other family voices by urging the Obama administration to stand its ground against the Saudi financial threat.

“Why do they cave in to the Saudi Arabian government instead of protecting the American people?” she asked. “They’re just trying to keep the Saudis’ dirty little secret. We’ve never held them accountable.”

The family members are currently appealing a decision made last year that protected Saudi Arabia from a lawsuit charging the country abetted the 9/11 terrorists. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian citizens.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (inset, opposite page), in a Washington visit last month, informed U.S. lawmakers of the potential sale of treasury securities and other American assets, the Times reported. The move would be necessary to prevent U.S. courts from possibly freezing the assets due to lawsuits.

The move could destabilize the U.S. dollar, experts told the Times.


President Obama, pictured with Vice President Biden at the Wounded Warrior Ride last week, plans to visit Riyadh on Wednesday.

“It’s blackmail, that’s all it is,” said Sharon Premoli, who escaped from the 80th floor of the north tower after the hijacked planes hit.

“This has got to stop,” she said flatly. “The threat shows that they are really nervous. They don’t want to show up in court.”

The harsh words and lingering tensions provide a backdrop for Obama’s planned Wednesday trip to Riyadh for meetings with Saudi officials, including King Salman.

The bipartisan Senate bill is co-sponsored by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican.

Cornyn said last month that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act was critical to “stopping the funding source for terrorists.” Strada agreed.

“If the money trail leads back to foreign nations, we have to follow it and take action, and this legislation is a very key part,” Strada said.

“The only way to combat terrorism is to financially go after people who finance terrorism. Bombs, drones, feet on the ground — you can’t defeat ISIS until you go after their wealthy paymasters.”

Under current U.S. law, foreign nations are spared from such lawsuits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. Any new legislation would need the approval of both houses of Congress and the President.

The proposed bill would specifically allow legal action against other countries in cases of an attack on American soil.

The Obama camp was urging Congress to consider the financial and diplomatic fallout that would ensue with the longtime U.S. ally if the legislation became law.

Riches said the issue was far more visceral for the families of those killed at Ground Zero.

“Look what they did to us — 3,000 families lost a loved one,” he said. “And we’re worried about their feelings? It’s a disgrace.”

Retired firefighter Jim Riches, whose son was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, called the Obama Administration's efforts to stop the bill "a slap in the face."  Seth Wenig/AP

Retired firefighter Jim Riches, whose son was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, called the Obama Administration’s efforts to stop the bill “a slap in the face.”

The 9/11 Commission, in its official report, declared there was “no evidence” linking the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials to funding for the attack.

But a 28-page portion of the Senate’s investigation into 9/11 remains classified, and people who have seen the documents say the Saudis were implicated.

The court battle has raged for years, with Saudi Arabia twice dismissed as a defendant in federal court. Last August, a Manhattan federal judge spared the country from legal action pending the appeal.

“Saudi Arabia would have a right to defend itself,” said Sean Carter, attorney for the 9/11 families in their suit. “When you view their response in that light, it really is telling.

“This is just a bill giving jurisdiction to the courts to hear the case.”