WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), are leading a bipartisan group of tristate area federal lawmakers in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to review previous administrations' assertion of the "state secrets privilege" that has thwarted efforts by the families of 9/11 victims to obtain government documents that they believe will show the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s complicity in the terrorist attacks.  The 9/11 families have pending litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“The 9/11 families—many of whom we have the honor of representing in Congress—have fought relentlessly for nearly twenty years to bring to justice all those associated with the worst terrorist attack on American soil,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.  “We understand that the families in this litigation seek documents that they believe would show Saudi Arabia’s complicity in the attacks, as well as information related to Operation Encore, an investigation conducted by the FBI between 2007 and 2016.  Like other victims, these families deserve to go to court with all the evidence available to them under a fair application of the law.”

The letter is cosigned by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.-07), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.-11), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.-05), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.-12), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.).

A copy of the letter is available here and full text is below:

 

Dear Attorney General Garland:

 

We write respectfully to bring to your attention the decision by the Department of Justice, under the previous Administration, to assert the so-called “state secrets privilege” in litigation brought by victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The 9/11 families—many of whom we have the honor of representing in Congress—have fought relentlessly for nearly twenty years to bring to justice all those associated with the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

 

Your predecessor, on more than one occasion, asserted the “state secrets privilege” in litigation brought by the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We understand that the families in this litigation seek documents that they believe would show Saudi Arabia’s complicity in the attacks, as well as information related to Operation Encore, an investigation conducted by the FBI between 2007 and 2016. Like other victims, these families deserve to go to court with all the evidence available to them under a fair application of the law.

 

As you know, one of our principal concerns with the “state secrets” doctrine is that it has no basis in statute; it is entirely judge-made, and it has frequently been asserted to cover up government misconduct. In many instances, courts have given the executive branch the unilateral power to dismiss a case or withhold information from litigants without needing to show any legitimate concern about the national security sensitivity of the information in question. As such, we appreciate you exercising extreme care with regard to any assertion or maintenance of this privilege.

 

We respectfully request you review past decisions to invoke the state secrets privilege in this case, in light of all the relevant facts and equities of the matter.  Thank you for your prompt consideration of this important matter.

 

Sincerely,