Saudi Arabia Hit with First 9/11 Family Lawsuit 2 Days after Congress Cleared the Way
By Britain Eakin, Courthouse News Service
WASHINGTON (CN) - The wife and daughter of a Navy commander killed on 9/11 sued the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Friday for its alleged support of al-Qaida's plan to carry out the attacks, two days after a veto override made it possible.
"Al-Qaida's ability to conduct large-scale terrorist attacks was the direct result of the support al-Qaida received from its material sponsors and supporters, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the federal lawsuit claims.
The 54-page complaint, filed in Washington, D.C., federal court, continues, "The Kingdom willingly provided material support to al-Qaida for more than a decade leading up to Sept. 11, 2001 with knowledge of al-Qaida's intent to conduct terrorist attacks against the United States, and an awareness that al-Qaida would use the support provided by the Kingdom to achieve that objective."
The lawsuit came two days after Congress rebuked President Barack Obama's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which creates an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to let American victims of terrorism sue foreign governments for aiding and abetting terror attacks carried out on U.S. soil if they can prove that foreign government officials played a role in the attacks.
Until now, Americans have only been able to sue governments that the U.S. has designated as state sponsors of terrorism.
Stephanie Ross Desimone filed Friday's lawsuit, along with her daughter Alexandra Desimone.
Desimone was two months pregnant with Alexandra on 9/11, who was born on March 15, 2002, six months after the attacks killed her father, Patrick Dunn, a Navy commander who worked at the Pentagon.
Saudi Arabia has long denied any direct involvement in the attacks, but the complaint alleges that Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi-tied official and a reputed intelligence officer, provided direct support to Sept. 11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar.
The complaint draws heavily on information contained in the 28 recently declassified pages of the 9/11 Commission's report that revealed FBI and CIA sources believed five Saudi officials, including al-Bayoumi, helped the hijackers.
The complaint quotes former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who served as co-chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities before and after 9/11: "Based on the evidence discovered by the joint inquiry, I further believe that al-Bayoumi was acting at the direction of elements of the Saudi government and that an official from the Islamic and Cultural Affairs section of the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles, Fahad al Thumairy, likely played some role in the support network for the 9/11 attacks."
Lawmakers who participated in the 9/11 Commission did not assess the accuracy of the information contained in those 28 pages, according to the declassified report. Saudi Arabia's Embassy in Washington has downplayed the revelation contained in the report.
But Friday's lawsuit claims that al-Bayoumi had extensive contact with Saudi government officials indicative of a government agent.
"Telephone records indicate that Bayoumi made approximately 141 calls to Saudi officials in Washington D.C. at the Saudi Arabian Royal Embassy, the Saudi Islamic Affairs Department, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, the Saudi Arabian Education Mission and the Saudi National Guard. Bayoumi also made approximately 34 calls to the Saudi Arabian Royal Consulate in Los Angeles," the complaint states.
The lawsuit continues, "The extent and pattern of these contacts are consistent with witness statements identifying Bayoumi as an agent of the Saudi government responsible for monitoring the activities of Saudi citizens living in the United States, a role in which he would have reported to the Islamic Affairs departments in the Kingdom's embassies and consulates."
The Sept. 30 lawsuit also holds Saudi Arabia's feet to the fire over its support for and propagation of Wahhabi Islam - a strict, narrow and austere version of the faith - and claims the Saudi government has always supported al-Qaida's goal of global jihad.
The kingdom created organizations intended to propagate radical strains of Islam in mosques around the world, the complaint alleges.
"Under the direction of the Saudi government, and especially the Kingdom's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, these organizations pressed the view that Western society, under the leadership of the United States, is conducting a coordinated 'Western cultural attack' on Islam, designed to destroy Muslim society as a predicate for Western conquest of Muslim territories," the complaint states.
These Saudi organizations allegedly pushed jihad and "worldwide indoctrination into Wahhabi Islam," as the only way to counter this phenomenon.
One of Desimone's attorneys, David J. Dickens with The Miller Firm in Orange, Va., did not return a message requesting comment Monday. The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington also did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
To Learn More:
Stephanie Ross Desimone, et al, v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (U.S. District Court for District of Columbia)
U.S. House Overwhelmingly Approves Bill Allowing 9/11 Families to Sue Saudi Arabia; Obama Vows Veto (by Britain Eakin, Courthouse News Service)
Angry 9/11 Families See Obama Capitulation to Saudi Threat Over Congressional Bill on 9/11 Lawsuits (by Mark Mazzetti, New York Times)
Convicted 9/11 Plotter Claims Members of Saudi Royal Family Helped Finance Attacks…He’s not Alone (by Steve Straehley and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Judge Rules Saudi Kingdom Immune from Legal Action by 9/11 Victims’ Families (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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