WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday that legislation to allow lawsuits against the government of Saudi Arabia over the Sept. 11 attacks has "grave implications" for U.S. national security.
Brennan's comments in a formal statement came as the Senate prepared to hold a vote on overriding President Barack Obama's veto of the legislation.
"The most damaging consequence would be for those U.S. Government officials who dutifully work overseas on behalf of our country. The principle of sovereign immunity protects U.S. officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity," Brennan said. "If we fail to uphold this standard for other countries, we place our own nation's officials in danger."
Carter claimed that the legislation could lead to the public disclosure of American secrets and even undercut counterterrorism efforts by sowing mistrust among U.S. partners and allies.
The legislation, which has broad support among Democrats and Republicans, gives victims’ families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, suburban Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
Courts would be permitted to waive a claim of foreign sovereign immunity when an act of terrorism occurs inside U.S. borders, according to the terms of the bill. Saudi Arabia has objected vehemently to the legislation.
Obama rejected the measure Friday, telling lawmakers the bill would make the U.S. vulnerable to retaliatory litigation in foreign courts that could put U.S. troops in legal jeopardy. The bill’s proponents have disputed Obama’s rationale as "unconvincing and unsupportable,” saying the measure is narrowly tailored and applies only to acts of terrorism that occur on U.S. soil.
But Obama said foreign governments would be able to act "reciprocally” and allow their courts to exercise jurisdiction over the United States and its employees for allegedly causing injuries overseas through American support to third parties. He cited as notional examples actions that might be taken overseas by U.S.-backed armed militias and the improper use by foreign forces of U.S. military equipment.