Congress overrides presidential veto on 9/11 bill, a step Obama calls a grave mistake

The House of Representatives voted 348-77, the Senate 97-1, overruling Obama for the first time in his eight-year presidency. Relatives of 9/11 victims can sue Saudi Arabia. White House spokesman describes the vote as “embarrassing”. For CIA director, “the bill carries "grave implications" for national security.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The US Congress overrode President Barack Obama’s veto on the controversial law passed by the House and Senate, which allows relatives of 9/11 victims to sue countries suspected of having supported the attacks, including Saudi Arabia, a long-standing US ally in the Middle East.

Mr Obama reacted bluntly by calling the vote a "mistake". For the president, who will soon leave office, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act or JASTA sets a "dangerous precedent" for individuals or groups around the world who could sue the US government.

Wednesday's vote was the first time Mr Obama's veto power was overruled. The Senate voted 97-1 and the House of Representatives 348-77, meaning the bill becomes law.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the vote was "the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate has done" in decades. For CIA Director John Brennan, the bill carries "grave implications" for national security.

For the president, Republicans and Democrats in Congress voted out of electoral interest. Opposing the law a few weeks before the November election could have led to losses at the polls.

"If you're perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that's a hard vote for people to take,” Obama said. "But it would have been the right thing to do."

Gulf monarchies have criticised the bill because it "contradicts the foundations and principles of relations between States" and, in particular, it targets " judicial immunity."

Obama has always been opposed to it because it could make the United States liable for legal actions by foreign governments.

Moreover, the law threatens to undermine even more the already delicate relations with Riyadh, which has slammed the US Administration for its nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s historic enemy.

Saudi Arabia is an old US ally. However, 15 of the 19 bombers who carried out the September 11 attacks came from the Wahhabi kingdom. Despite this, no evidence has come to light tying Saudi leaders to the attacks.

In recent weeks, the Saudi Foreign Ministry has threatened to pull Saudi investment and cancel US-Saudi trade deals. Saudi Arabia has assets worth $ 750 billion in the US.