by Eric Owens
The government of Saudi Arabia and its agents appear to be recruiting U.S. military veterans and people with foreign policy credentials to submit basically the same op-ed to newspapers around the country in an effort to concoct the appearance of an organic groundswell of opposition to a new federal law that allows civil lawsuits against state sponsors of terrorism.
The law — the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) — creates a way for American citizens to file civil claims against foreign governments for deaths, injuries and other damage related to terrorist acts if the foreign governments financed those attacks.
A cursory review of five different newspaper submissions allegedly written by five different authors — and placed in five different major newspapers from Oct. 5, 2016 to Nov. 28, 2016 — strongly suggests an astroturf campaign conducted by some single source.
All five op-eds use exactly the same language at different points, with full paragraphs that are clearly, almost lazily repetitive.
Only the word “of” instead of the phrase “known as” separates what Sinkovits wrote from what Cotney wrote. Otherwise, 46 words — out of 47 and 48, respectively — are identical.
But wait. There’s more. On Nov. 28, the Cedar Rapids Gazette published an op-ed titled “JASTA’s negative consequences” by “guest columnist” Don Pugsley with exactly the same string of 47 words contained in the Oct. 5 op-ed in The Denver Post by Sinkovits.
The Gazette describes Pugsley as “a special forces Green Beret Sargeant [sic] Major with 87 military parachute jumps, a top Secret Security Clearance and a medi-vac in Vietnam.”
In the Concord Monitor on Nov. 20, a letter to the editor by Ken Georgevits — no description given — changes three words but is otherwise a carbon copy of the identical wording by Cotney, Sinkovits and Pugsley.
Who coordinated the five impressively identical op-eds allegedly written by five different authors in five different major newspapers in the last two months? The obvious candidate — the only candidate, really — is a lobbyist or a public relations firm working on a large retainer for Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appears to be the only foreign government named in any lawsuit alleging material foreign-government support for the Sept. 11 hijackers. The practical effect of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act has been to allow lawsuits to go forward against Saudi Arabia because of 9/11.
In response to the 9/11 law (now and when it was a bill), the Saudi government has been engaging in a furious lobbying effort.
As of early November, The Hill reports, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is paying 14 lobbying firms to convince Congress to change the law — and thus to prevent any federal trial in which Saudi Arabia must defend itself.
Much more at The Daily Caller. Read it all.
Update: The Saudi’s even did a U.S. tour to have the bill repealed or changed: Saudi Arabia lobbies US over 9/11 law
(AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has been lobbying US legislators to change a law allowing victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue the kingdom, he said on Sunday.
Adel al-Jubeir told reporters he has just returned from an extended stay in the United States, which was partly “to try to persuade them that there needs to be an amendment of the law”, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
In opposing the law, Obama said it would harm US interests by opening up the United States to private lawsuits over its military missions abroad.
Is Obama admitting that 9/11 was a Saudi military mission?
Update 2: Full Measure did a report on the Saudi Lobbying:
Sharyl: It turns out a lobby firm called Qorvis had arranged the Washington trip. And Qorvis has been on the Saudi payroll since two months after the 9/11 attacks with a contract that paid $200,000 a month, $2.4 million a year.
Sharyl: And Qorvis isn’t the Kingdom’s only lobbyist. Lydia Dennett is an investigator with the nonprofit watchdog Project on Government Oversight.
Lydia Dennett: By the end of 2016, the Saudi Arabian government had 22 different lobbying firms working to promote their interests in the U.S. Twelve of which were added in the fall of 2016 alone, right around the time that JASTA was or the 9-11 bill was introduced.
Sharyl: What do you sense the Saudis were trying to do when it comes to that bill?
Dennett: They were trying to get their message out there, which was that it was a dangerous bill that would set a dangerous precedent across the world.
Sharyl: That’s exactly the messaging that flooded the media in the U.S. The Saudi money helped distribute the Kingdom’s talking points, and place op-eds that argued a law allowing 9/11 families to sue countries like Saudi Arabia would cause foreign countries to retaliate and sue our military personnel, which is the argument President Obama made last September when he vetoed the bill.
Sharyl: But Congress overrode the President’s veto. That’s when Qorvis, as a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, hired Jason Johns to put together the vets’ trip to Washington.
Dennett: Because it was done through this lobbying firm, the veterans themselves and the public may not have known that these were talking points and issues that were coming from the Saudi Arabian government, which sort of undermines the entire transparency and intent of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Sharyl: The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 requires lobbyists for foreign interests to register and file reports. That’s how we know that Jason Johns was hired by Qorvis and officially registered to lobby elected officials on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
Cord: We found out afterward, that Jason Johns was a registered Saudi agent, and he made $100,000. It’s on public record that he was paid a hundred grand by the Kingdom and registered as a Saudi agent.
Sharyl: Saudi Arabia might say everything we did was perfectly legal. U.S. law allows them to hire people in this country and lobby for their interests. What did they do wrong?
Dennett: In any written materials distributed, if there were emails sent to these veterans or their veteran groups, they’re required to say very clearly in there,“this is information, we’re being paid to distribute this information by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and more information is available at the Department of Justice.” If the emails or any documents did not include that statement, then that’s a violation of the law.
Sharyl: In fact, an examination of some emails trip organizers allegedly sent to vets, made no mention of Saudi lobbying.
For more on the rhino’s carrying water for the Saudi’s read: McCain and Graham Seek to Gut 9/11 Bill to Immunize Foreign Governments Funding Terrorists.