Monthly Archives: August 2008

Appeals court: Saudis can’t be sued over 9/11 attacks

The Second Circuit Thursday released a significant decision, holding that the government of Saudi Arabia and its ruling princes, could not be sued over their financial donations to Islamic charities that allegedly funded and fueled al Qaeda. The Saudi government were defendants in multiple suits. The panel found the country was protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. 

Here is the Reuters story:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, four princes and other Saudi entities are immune from a lawsuit filed by victims of the September 11 attacks and their families alleging they gave material support to al Qaeda, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a 2006 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Casey dismissing a claim against Saudi Arabia, a Saudi charity, four princes and a Saudi banker of providing material support to al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks.

The victims and their families argued that because the defendants gave money to Muslim charities that in turn gave money to al Qaeda, they should be held responsible for helping to finance the attacks.

The appeals court found that the defendants are protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The court also noted that exceptions to the immunity rule do not apply because Saudi Arabia has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department.

Here is a link to the opinion.

The firm of Anderson, Kill and Olick, attorneys for former FBI agent John O’Neill, who was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, released this statement:

New York, NY (August 14, 2008) — As counsel to the estate of John P. O’Neill, Sr., we are disappointed with today’s decision by the panel of judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in John P. O’Neill, Sr. et al. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, et al., to the effect that Americans harmed or killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 do not have standing to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

While acknowledging that the plaintiffs have pled substantial information linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to certain purported charitable organizations, and demonstrating their role in facilitating the activities of Al Qaeda around the world, the panel utilized a unique and previously unsupported rationale for denying Americans the opportunity to use US Courts to seek redress for the harms that they suffered as a result of the 9/11 attacks. 

Under the Court’s rationale, were a New Yorker to be side-swiped by a car driven by an employee of the Saudi embassy, they could sue for the bumps and bruises that they suffered and the damage to their vehicle, yet the nearly 3,000 families of those innocents who were brutally killed in lower Manhattan, rural Pennsylvania and the Pentagon cannot pursue their claims. 

Additionally, those who plan, conspire and provide support for terrorists, from havens abroad, cannot be held accountable for their actions in our Courts, according to today’s ruling. 

We believe that the Court was wrong in its interpretation of the law. 

On behalf of the family of John O’Neill, the former FBI agent who spent his career fighting terrorism, and died on 9/11 while helping evacuate the World Trade Center, we intend to continue to take such steps as are appropriate to help vindicate the rights of the victims. 


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DOUBLETAKE: No. 2 is the new No. 1

Welcome to Doubletake, your daily spin on the headlines by Tribune correspondents Jim Tankersley and Jim Oliphant. Download our cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on itunes.

Jim Oliphant: I am beside myself . . . which isnt easy, by the way

Jim Tankersley: Why?

Oliphant: I go down to the mailbox, pull out the new edition of Sports Illustrated and there’s my bloody football team on the bloody cover.SICover.JPG

Tankersley: The Supreme Court Whizzers? (How’s that for a little Byron White humor early in the morning?)

Oliphant: Yeesh.

Tankersley: The Browns, I assume.

Oliphant: Please. The universe hasn’t gone that insane. No, the Buckeyes of the Ohio State University . . . who are now pariahs in the college football world for losing two straight national championship games. Constitutional amendments have been proposed to keep them from a third title game.

Tankersley: And by virtue of the SI Cover Jinx, will now tumble to a 4-8 record and lose by 50 to Michigan?

Oliphant: Of course! And if the Rest of America hated them before, they double-hate them now. Here is the amazing thing. They aren’t even ranked No. 1! They are No. 2. And I guess that is what we are talking about today.

Tankersley: Indeed. Vice presidents. This is a big couple of weeks for the men and women auditioning for spots on the McCain and Obama tickets. What do you make of the hopefuls?

Oliphant: It sort of seems to be a war of attrition doesnt it? Every time someone’s name rotates to the forefront, there seems to be a collective national yawn, sort of like when this week’s SI hit the newsstands.

Read the rest at The Swamp



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DOUBLETAKE: World Gone Wrong

Good morning. Welcome to Doubletake, your daily spin on the headlines brought to you by Tribune correspondents Jim Oliphant and Jim Tankersley. While our genius is largely ignored in America, we are HUGE in Belgium.latz.jpg

Jim Tankersley: Hello there. Actual news this morning! Cease-fire in Georgia! Mark Warner to keynote the Democratic National Convention . . . 

Jim Oliphant: And, most important, the Burger King employee who took a bath in the restaurant sink! 
(Wait for it.)

Tankersley: (silence)

Oliphant: Don’t you want to talk about Mr. Unstable?

Tankersley: Mr. Unstable?

Oliphant: It’s not Vladimir Putin. That’s who they are calling the employee who took a bath at an Ohio Burger King. 



Say hello to Mr. Unstable. Wonder where he got that name?

Read the rest on the Swamp.

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Mukasey to ABA: ‘The system failed’

 Attorney General Michael Mukasey told a group Tuesday that the Justice Department’s hiring practices broke down, resulting in politically-motived hires made by officials whose power went unchecked.

Back in his native New York City to address the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, Mukasey’s remarks were forthright and contrite concerning the reports from the department’s inspector general that found aide Monica Goodling and others used screening questions to evaluate candidates based on their loyalty to the administration.

The conduct described in those reports is disturbing. The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it. That mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our own Department. Some people at the Department deviated from that strict standard, and the institution failed to stop them.

I want to stress that last point because there is no denying it: the system failed. The active wrong-doing detailed in the two joint reports was not systemic in that only a few people were directly implicated in it. But the failure was systemic in that the system – the institution — failed to check the behavior of those who did wrong. There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the Department. And there was a failure on the part of some employees to cry foul when they were aware, or should have been aware, of problems.

Mukasey, a former New York federal judge brought in by the White House to repair the damage that occurred under his predecessor Alberto Gonzales, told the gathering that he had instituted several reforms at the department to bring balance to the hiring process, including training in government ethics practices. The text of his speech in its entirety can be found after the jump. 

Full text of the speech after the jump: Continue reading

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DOUBLETAKE: A conspiracy of silence?



Welcome to Doubletake, your daily dose of the morning news brought to you by Tribune correspondents Jim (“word to your mother”) Tankersley and James Oliphant. No avatars were harmed in the making of this feature.

Jim Tankersley: A beautiful August morning to you.

Jim Oliphant:  Very unseasonable. I had the windows open last night. I guess those global warming cranks had better find another cause.

Tankersley: It’s the sort of day that makes you wish you were on vacation. You’ve got to hand it to the French — they may fade in the final seconds of a 4 by 100 relay, but they pioneered the art of collectively taking August off. It’s a national tradition there.

Oliphant:  Every August I vow to be out of Washington and every August I’m here. I guess it’s time to find another vow. Or another month.

Tankersley: On the other hand, think of what you’d be missing. You wouldn’t have learned yesterday that the media “cone of silence” around John Edwards’ affair kept Hillary Clinton from winning Iowa, the Democratic nomination and, presumably, the White House.

Oliphant: Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s former spokesman, suggested as much Monday, saying the MSM (that would be us) laid off Edwards in a way of course he implied it never did with Hillary.

The Clinton camp has sure gotten over it, hasn’t it?

Read the rest at The Swamp.

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Ted Stevens: North to Alaska

Indicted Sen. Ted Stevens is trying to move the site of his upcoming corruption trial from Washington, D.C. to (surprise!) Alaska in order to procure the potential of some home-field advantage.

The Justice Department isn’t keen on the idea, considering that almost everything it needs for a successful prosecution is here in the District. In the government’s opposition to Stevens’ motion for a change of venue, filed Monday, DOJ lawyers write:

If this case is transferred to the District of Alaska, the following must travel to Alaska for
trial: the Judge and his staff, the defendant, defense counsel, much of the evidence, the witnesses from Washington, D.C., and the witnesses from other jurisdictions. If the case remains in the District of Columbia, where the crimes took place and the indictment was properly returned, the government’s witnesses from Alaska and other states must travel, at no expense to themselves. Accordingly, Stevens’ motion should be denied.

Even more interesting, the government is protesting a move to Alaska, because Stevens, who is up for reelection, is using the charges against him as a campaign issue.

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Conyers to probe Suskind allegations

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), announced Monday that his staff will probe into allegations in Ron Suskind’s new book, “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism,”  that the Bush administration forged intelligence documents to justify the war in Iraq.


“Mr. Suskind reports that the Bush Administration, in its pursuit of war, created and promoted forged documents about Iraq,” said Conyers in a statement released Monday afternoon.  “I am particularly troubled that the decision to disseminate this fabricated intelligence is alleged to have come from the highest reaches of the administration.  The administration’s attempt to challenge Mr. Suskind’s reporting appears to have been effectively dismissed by the publication of the author’s interview recordings and transcripts.  I have instructed my staff to conduct a careful review of Mr. Suskind’s allegations and the role played by senior administration officials in this matter.”

In a release, Conyers identified specific areas where he is directing his staff to investigate:


* The origin of the allegedly forged document that formed the basis for Bush’s 2003 State of the Union assertion that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium from Niger;

·         The role of this document in creating the false impression that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had a working relationship with Iraq;

·         The relationship between this document and other reported examples of the Bush Administration considering other deceptive schemes to justify or provoke war with Iraq, such as the reported consideration of painting a U.S. aircraft with UN colors in order to provoke Iraq into military confrontation;

·         Allegations that the Bush Administration deliberately ignored information from Iraq’s chief intelligence officer that Iraq possessed no WMDs;

·         The payment of $5 million to Iraq’s chief intelligence officer and his secret settlement in Jordan, beyond the reach of investigators;

·         The September 2007 detainment and interrogation of Mr. Suskind’s research assistant, Greg Jackson, by federal agents in Manhattan.  Jackson’s notes were also confiscated.

Conyers, of course, has been trying to get to the bottom of the administration’s role in the U.S. attorney scandal and fashioning interrogation policy, but has been consistently stymied by the White House’s refusal to provide key aides such as Karl Rove to testify. That matter remains in litigation in federal court. 



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