Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks to troops at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, September 26, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warns that legislation allowing families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia could be "devastating" for the US military.
The Pentagon chief wrote a letter to a senior member of Congress warning that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, known as JASTA, posed risks for US forces abroad.
"While we are sympathetic to the intent of JASTA, its potential second- and third-order consequences could be devastating to the Department and its Service members and could undermine our important counterterrorism efforts abroad," Carter said in the letter which was released on Tuesday.
The warning comes as the Senate prepares to vote to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the measure on Wednesday, allowing the bill to become law.
The letter was addressed to Texas Representative Mac Thornberry, who earlier circulated a letter to his fellow House Republicans saying that as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, he would vote to sustain Obama’s veto and urging them to do the same.
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (File photo by AFP)
However, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has said he will vote to override the president’s veto.
Obama vetoed the controversial legislation on Friday. It takes two-thirds majorities in both the Senate and House to override a veto.
In his veto message, Obama said JASTA would be “detrimental” to America's national security interests and its key alliances.
The bill passed the Senate and House without opposition, in reaction to long-running suspicion that the Saudi government had played a role in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Of the 19 hijackers that allegedly carried out the attacks, 15 were Saudi nationals and available evidence suggests some of them were linked to high-ranking Saudi officials.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate's top Democrat, predicted that Obama's veto would not be sustained. If the House also votes to override, the legislation will become law.