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Americans can now sue saudis over 911 attacks




A NEW law in the United States allows survivors of terror attacks and victims’ relatives to sue foreign governments, opening the way for Saudi Arabia to be targeted for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks.

The US Congress on Thursday rejected President Barack Obamas veto of legislation allowing victims families to sue the kingdom, meaning the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act will become law.

It comes after sustained campaigning over the past 15 years by those bereaved by the September 11, 2001 assault that killed almost 3000 people in New York and Washington.

Saudi Arabia firmly denies it had anything to do with the attacks and warned of disastrous consequences for relations between the allies if the law is passed.

But what do we know about the allegations, and what might be revealed if the families of 9/11 victims seize on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act to have their day in court?

SAUDI HIJACKERS

The Saudi government insists it had no official involvement in the attacks, and the official US investigations found no proven link.

But individual Saudis were involved: 15 of the 19 hijackers who seized passenger jets and crashed them into landmarks were citizens of the kingdom.

The attack was carried out by the Al-Qaeda movement, which was founded and led by Osama bin Laden, the son of a wealthy Saudi construction magnate with close ties to the royal family.

But Bin Laden himself had been banished from the kingdom in 1992 and was stripped of his Saudi citizenship by royal decree in 1994 after speaking out against the king.

The 9/11 Commission set up by President George W. Bush said in 2004 that Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of Al-Qaeda funding. But we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organisation.

THE 28 PAGES

Why, then, do suspicions remain? And why did an overwhelming majority of US politicians vote to override President Obamas veto, passing a law to allow lawsuits against the kingdom?

Part of the answer lies in the so-called 28 pages, a section of a congressional report into the attacks that predated the 9/11 Commission findings and was classified on Bushs orders.

For years, the mystery surrounding the missing section fed theories that the US administration had censored the passages to save Saudi officials from scrutiny and protect ties with the oil-rich ally.

But in July this year, under pressure from politicians and victims families, Obama ordered the 28 pages to be released, and they do not definitively identify official Saudi involvement.

While in the United States, some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government, the document said.

One suspect on the US East Coast believed to be from the Saudi interior ministry appeared to fake a seizure during FBI questioning about his links to a hijacker.

He was later released from hospital and managed to flee the country before he could be questioned again.

In California, a suspected Saudi intelligence operative was believed to have provided substantial assistance settling two more hijackers in to American life.

The phonebook of an Al-Qaeda operative captured in Pakistan meanwhile pointed to US contacts, notably a company that managed a Colorado property of the then-Saudi ambassador.

NO NEW EVIDENCE

Releasing the material, the Obama administration said the leads turned up by the 2002 congressional probe and contained in the missing 28 pages have since been investigated.

They dont shed any new light, spokesman Josh Earnest said, or change any of the conclusions about responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

The images of 9/11 stay with all of us, but for many of the families of those trapped inside the World Trade Centre, the most powerful legacy of that fateful day is the voices calling from inside the towers.

Australian banks bashed by investors too as financial pressures mount


BATTERED by politicians and public opinion, Australia’s big four banks are now being shunned by their own investors.

Shareholders and investment funds have been selling down despite many years of healthy bank gains, and the big fours share prices have fallen between 6 and 13 per cent over the past year while the overall Aussie sharemarket has climbed 4.5 per cent.

The Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB make up one-quarter of the value of Australias 200 largest companies, which means without them the overall market would have looked much better.

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Some sharemarket analysts say the smart money has been moving out of banks and being invested elsewhere, but others stay banks now offer good value and their high dividend payouts should continue.

Australian Unity Investments CEO David Bryant said the banks profits had been soft, bad debts were expected to worsen, and low interest rates were making it harder for them to hold onto deposits potentially putting pressure on future dividends.

What it means for investors is more uncertainty, and they should be looking at alternatives to banking stocks, particularly in areas such as commercial property, he said.

The banks failed to shine in this months profit reporting season, they have copped criticism about not passing on all of the Reserve Banks August interest rate cut, there are continuing calls for a Royal Commission from the Labor Party, they are battling scandals and lawsuits, and their strong dividend growth of recent years has stopped.

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Statewide Super chief investment officer Con Michalakis said bank bashing was a national sport, but said the big fours future should be fine unless there was a housing crash.

Even the banks are telling you that things are tougher now, but theyre still making money and will still find ways to make money, he said.

Have some exposure but be careful. They have underperformed a bit and, going forward, they will probably struggle.

Mr Michalakis said bank bosses would try as hard as possible to keep the dividends flowing at current levels, where their income yield is between 6 and 7 per cent well above savings account interest rates.

I think in five years the banks will be trying to do the same things they are doing now, just more efficiently.

Fat Prophets senior analyst James Lennon said he was quite fond of the banks at their current share prices.

As it stands now, theyre quite good value. The yield is attractive, he said.

Many investors were worried about bad debts but unless there was a debt spiral, the outlook remained solid, Mr Lennon said.

They have proven through the GFC that they are pretty resilient.

bBank Share price past 12 months Dividend yield

ANZ down 11 per cent 6.6 per cent

CBA down 6.4 per cent 5.7 per cent

NAB down 13.3 per cent 7.3 per cent

Westpac down 8 per cent 6.3 per cent