Detailed intelligence that could link members of the Saudi royal family to groups that financed the 9/11 terror attacks may never see the light of day, in part because of an Obama administration move to have a lawsuit filed on behalf of 7,600 relatives of 9/11 victims thrown out.
"Physically, President Obama has done what previous presidents have done for a long time, which is bow down," Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
So far, two federal judges and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the suit would violate the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act of 1976, which prevents U.S. citizens from suing the governments of other nations. That law is intended to block legal actions by private U.S. citizens against other countries, based on the notion that those countries enjoy legal immunity.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule this week on whether the 9/11 relatives' lawsuit can go forward.
Last month, the Justice Department drew the wrath of 9/11 family members by siding with the Saudis, asking that the lawsuit be nixed.
"Myself and the other family members are unanimously upset," Doug Connors, who lost an older brother in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, told The Washington Times. "We feel that our government hasn't supported us as victims."
The administration's efforts to squelch the lawsuit may face a complication. An unknown source anonymously gave the families' attorneys more than 50 classified U.S. government documents related to the suit. The Justice Department subsequently destroyed the lawyers' copies of those documents.
However, details of alleged Saudi financial contributions to known terrorists — presumably in return for royal immunity to acts of terrorism — have begun to emerge gradually: A witness swore that he saw a top Saudi prince hand a check for $267 million to a top Taliban leader in 1998. The New York Times reports a source, described as an al-Qaida operative in Bosnia, identified a Saudi charity that provided funds and supplies to al-Qaida in the 1990s. Another Islamic charity bankrolled largely by the Saudi royals exhibited "support for terrorist organizations" through 2006, according to Treasury Department documents that the attorneys obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests. The New York Times also reports that German intelligence documented "tens of millions of dollars" in bank transfers in the early 1990s to yet another charity suspected of financing extremist activities.
The families' attorneys have accumulated thousands of pages of information they say supports their claim four Saudi princes indirectly supported al-Qaida and the Taliban before 9/11. But that information may never be presented unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the case can go forward.
"In looking at all the evidence the families brought together, I have not seen one iota of evidence that Saudi Arabia had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks," Michael Kellogg, a Washington attorney representing one of the Saudi princes, told The New York Times.
Administration officials in the Justice and State departments met with the 9/11 families in the past week to discuss terrorist financing and the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison. Family members asked why the administration was siding with the Saudis and trying to block their case, but the officials dodged those questions, they said.
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