The Saudi Arabian government has reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying trips made by U.S. veterans to Washington D.C. in efforts to overturn a law that allows the families of victims from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks to sue the Saudi government, a new AP report has found.
The report lays out how undeclared lobbyists, many of whom are U.S veterans, had their airfare and accommodations paid in full by Qorvis MSLGroup, a lobbying group located in the U.S. that represents interests of the Saudi government. The U.S. requires that anyone taking money to lobby from a foreign government must first register within 10 days of being contracted and before beginning any work. It appears, that in the case of many of these U.S. veterans, this requirement was not satisfied.
The law in question, known as Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism, was passed by Congress in September of 2016 and has resulted in massive lawsuits being filed by 9/11 families and first responders against the Saudi government. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers involved in 9/11 attacks hailed from Saudi Arabia, along with Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.
While the United States never fully determined that Saudis helped fund al-Qaeda operations within Saudi Arabia itself (although the evidence is fairly strong), the U.S. government did find that there’s “fertile fundraising ground in Saudi Arabia, where extreme religious views are common.” This blind eye, which also benefits groups like ISIS today, is what led to the death of 3,000 people on 9/11, and eventually, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism law.
However, some all veterans say they were not fully aware of where the money they were being paid to lobby originated. Some even claim they were intentionally deceived when they took part in rallies and events that went against the JAST law, via the AP report:
“It was very evident that they weren’t forthcoming; they weren’t telling us the whole truth,” said Casler, a former U.S. Marine sergeant who took part in one of the events. “They flat-out lied to us on the first day with the statement: ‘This is not paid for by the Saudi Arabian government.’”
President Donald Trump is set to visit Saudi Arabia later this month, where this issue is sure to come up.