Should U.S. Citizens Be Able to Sue Foreign Countries?

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Sailors walk past a flag aboard the USS Somerset Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.
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The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act is a bill that would potentially allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi Arabian government, which they argue was complicit in supporting the hijackers who carried out the terrorist attacks. Though no official connection has ever been proved (according to 28 pages of previously classified documents from the 9/11 Commission Report), some 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia.

The bill passed both houses of Congress, but President Obama vetoed the legislation. Today, the Senate voted to override Obama's veto. This is the first veto override seen during the eight years of the Obama Administration. 

The White House has raised concerns about how the legislation could lead to retaliation from foreign governments and further damage U.S. relations with Saudi government. Additionally, some legal scholars argue that the bill violates international law by circumventing Saudi Arabia's right to foreign sovereign immunity. Furthermore, critics argue that there is no mechanism with which to compel Saudi Arabia to pay any judgements, and it would open the U.S. up to similar lawsuits in response to American actions abroad.

Takeaway Washington Correspondent Todd Zwillich brings us the latest from Capitol Hill, and Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, reflects on President Obama's decision to veto the bill.