I am writing to address today’s Review Journal article which reported on certain Nevada advocates being registered foreign agents of Saudi Arabia. As you read, VIPI got caught up in that controversy in a most unexpected way. In keeping with our mission to promote maximum transparency, I would like to tell you what happened with regard to VIPI’s involvement and to give you my thoughts directly as it shows how committed we are to advocating for the betterment of our military personnel, even when it is unpopular to do so.
As I previously reported, VIPI, its officers and I were recently sued for defamation by two family law lawyers who claim that our criticism of them was unfair. We recently put out a call for funds asking people to contribute to our legal defense fund so that we could fight these lawsuits and protect all of our precious free speech rights.
I have been following up my calls for funds with phone calls. One of the people I called was Ronni Council, a campaign manager whom I have known for years. When I called her she told me that she was working with a national organization to “fix” a bill that passed into law over President Obama’s veto, called JASTA – Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The bill enabled victims of terrorism or their families to sue in America any foreign governments that they blame for the terrorist attack, starting with the 9/11 attacks, even if the particular government was not designated by the U.S. as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
While this bill actually sounded just fine with me – we are all for empowering victims of terrorism to go after its perpetrators – she explained that there were potential unintended downsides to this law for our military and veterans. That’s when we wanted to know more. President Obama had vetoed the bill, Harry Reid voted against it in the Senate, and top military personnel, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, had warned against it. In fact, Secretary Carter said that it “could be devastating to the U.S. Military.”
As it turned out, the key problems with JASTA was that if other countries pass similar laws, it could trigger lawsuits by people in foreign countries dragging U.S. military and others into court in those countries for payment for injuries or death caused by US anti-terrorism measures such as drone strikes. These lawsuits, in the U.S. and abroad, could also expose and jeopardize key U.S. military operations and anti-terrorism measures. Even Bob Corker, the Republican Senator from Tennessee, and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he voted for the bill “understanding that there could be in fact unintended consequences that work against our national interests.”
Our thoughts were that while we fully understand and support the emotional response that JASTA triggers, foreign policy can’t be built on emotion. It has to be built on what makes sense for all of us as a country. We think that terrorism is best handled by attacking it at its source using all of the U.S.’s covert resources, and not by filing lawsuits. Terrorists don’t care about lawsuits.
That’s why we got involved. That’s why we wrote to our followers and that’s why I sent emails to our Congress to oppose the proposed legislation. It was not for the $120 that Ronni Council ultimately donated to our lawsuit defense fund. If we didn’t agree with the message, we would never have sent it out, no matter what anyone offered. Anyone who knows us, should know that about us. We are not about the money. We are about transparency, empowerment and getting information out to the public so that informed decisions can be made for our country. .
We learned about Ronni Council’s alleged registration as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia when a Review Journal reporter recently told us about it. When I called Ronni about it, she said she didn’t know about the registration, and continues to deny that she was acting on behalf of a foreign government. She has since shown me the registration, and it does not contain her signature.
I’m personally disappointed in two things – First, if Ronni knew she was a registered foreign agent for Saudi Arabia at the time she spoke with me, then she should have disclosed it up front. Second, with regard to the Review Journal’s implication that “payment” was made to VIPI for its opinion, please know that we would never sell our opinion, and I would hope, given the years that I’ve known Ronni, that she would have contributed to our defense fund regardless of our position on JASTA.
JASTA is the law now and there is much talk, even amongst its supporters, to revise it. We understand that a lawsuit has already been filed under this new law. We will see how it plays out. Hopefully, victims of terrorism and their families can find redress, and our veterans and military personnel will be unharmed. As always though, when we bring an issue to your attention, please make up your own minds by looking at the pros and cons of the issues we raise.
In the meantime, please rest assured that VIPI has not, and never will, be influenced by money in forming or expressing its opinions. We value your trust and work for what we believe in. VIPI is comprised of people who have sacrificed much to preserve our democracy. We did not make these sacrifices to see it sell out to the highest bidder.
Semper Fi, and let’s keep fighting the good fight.
President of Veterans in Politics International, Inc.
PO Box 28211
Las Vegas, NV 89126
702 283 8088