Justice for 9/11 Families: Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001

Active case

After the tragic and catastrophic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Motley Rice attorneys led and continue to lead the charge to develop groundbreaking complex litigation against the financiers and material supporters of the terrorist organization al Qaeda. In keeping with late Motley Rice co-founder Ron Motley’s “no stone left unturned” discovery philosophy, Motley Rice lawyers are prosecuting the case under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for 9/11 families demanding accountability for material support provided to al Qaeda.


Sept. 10, 2020

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must make available as many as 24 current and former officials, allowing them to sit for depositions to shed light on the Kingdom’s alleged involvement leading up to the 9/11 attacks, the Southern District of New York recently ordered. Among the witnesses are several high-ranking officials whom plaintiffs have argued have unique, first-hand knowledge regarding the hijackers and support they were provided to carry out the attacks. Read the order.

Motley Rice 9/11 clients have said:

“We are thankful to have had a law firm like Motley Rice that was willing to stand by us and fight for the truth.”**

—The family of Mark Bavis, (3.13.1970 – 9.11.2001)
passenger on United 175
** This is an unpaid testimonial about this litigation. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. The results achieved for one client in one matter do not guarantee, warrant or predict that similar results can be obtained for other clients.

Taking Action Against the Supporters of Terrorism

On behalf of 500 pioneer survivors and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks, Motley Rice filed a civil action in August 2002 aimed at holding responsible the individuals, banks, corporations and charities historically implicated in sponsoring al Qaeda’s terrorist activities.

Since this action—Thomas Burnett Sr. et al v Al Baraka Banking and Investment, et al—was filed, the number of plaintiffs has grown to include more than 6,600 survivors and family members, a subset of which are members of the organization 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism. The action has been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York as In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, MDL #1570.

On March 7, 2017 Motley Rice and co-counsel filed an amended complaint requesting that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be listed as a defendant in the litigation, bringing the 9/11 Families and Survivors one step closer to obtaining answers for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Read the full amended complaint.

In March 2018, U.S. District Judge George Daniels for the Southern District of New York has denied an attempt by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to dismiss the litigation. In addition to denying a motion to dismiss, the Judge also allowed plaintiffs’ to move forward with targeted jurisdictional discovery. Read more.

In August 2018, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn ruled that more than 6,000 pages in documents produced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will not be sealed. The Judge’s ruling was made in response to a defense motion on July 31, 2018 asking the Court to reconsider current protective guidelines, deem the documents confidential and seal them due to their “highly sensitive nature.” Judge Netburn declined the secrecy request, instead directing the Kingdom “to comply with the existing protective order,” which requires the defense to confer with plaintiffs on which documents should be confidential, and submit a request for redactions before the documents are filed on the open docket as public information. Read the order.

In April 2020, after months spent fighting for access to FBI investigative files and other documents that could offer insight into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s alleged role in the attacks, plaintiffs successfully petitioned the Southern District of New York to compel the FBI to search for and produce the records. The FBI had 45 days to comply with the order, which was issued by Judge Netburn, and did produce some of the records. The agency continues to argue that the remainder of the documents should be kept hidden, however, and Plaintiffs continue to push for their release 

Our attorneys continue to seek civil justice for 9/11 victims and families. By uncovering the support structures and resources of those that provide material support to terrorist groups, the civil justice system has an important part to play in preventing future attacks. This lawsuit is based on the principles of safety and freedom from terrorism and is designed to deter, punish and bankrupt individuals and entities that fund terrorism, and ultimately deprive them of the means to sponsor or otherwise promote future acts of terror.

As part of the firm’s “no stone left unturned” approach that Ron Motley instilled, Anti-terrorism attorney Mike Elsner took the deposition of Niaz Khan born in Burnley, Lancashire and then his family moved to Pakistan. Mr. Kahn asserts he defected from al Qaeda in 2000, and warned the authorities of al Qaeda's plans to attack civilian targets in the US.

In re September 11 Litigation*

At the request of victims’ families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our attorneys also initiated civil action against the airline industry for security lapses in In re September 11 Litigation. Representing 56 families that opted out of the Victim Compensation Fund, Motley Rice attorneys conducted a full investigation into security lapses on 9/11 and were set for trial.  Motley Rice attorneys took the sworn video statement of Niaz Khan, an al Qaeda hijacker, who changed his mind prior to the 9/11 attacks.  Motley Rice helped the families win access to crucial information on what happened aboard the aircraft that they never would have had access to but for the civil justice system.  The litigation provided much needed answers for many grieving families.  Motley Rice eventually negotiated settlements far beyond the precedents existing at the time for wrongful death cases against the airline industry.

*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome

9/11 Joint Inquiry Report: The Missing 28 Pages

In 2002, the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001 report was released: all but 28 redacted pages, which, according to then-President George W. Bush, would “damage American intelligence operations, revealing ‘sources and methods that would make it harder for us to win the war on terror.’”

But according to Senator Bob Graham (FL), former chairman of the Senate Select Committee that issued the report, these pages would  reveal the network of support that led to the 9/11 attacks—information he believes that has been kept from the American public for far too long.

In a January 2015 press conference hosted by Senator Graham along with Congressmen Walter B. Jones (NC-3) and Stephen F. Lynch (MA-8), all three representatives called for the passing of H. Res. 14, a resolution that would finally declassify the 28 pages and “provide the American public with the full truth surrounding the tragic events of September 11, 2001.” According to Jones, “the American people deserve the truth, and the release of these pages will not harm our national security; rather, the declassification of these pages will enhance our national security because the public will be better informed.”

Congress released the 28 pages on July 15, 2016. Read them here.

Testimony by Zacarias Moussaoui

In recent testimony, Zacarias Moussaoui—who is convicted of assisting al Qaeda, a role for which he is currently serving six life sentences—further affirmed that defendants in the case had close ties with and provided material support to al Qaeda.

9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism

Originally founded as the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, this group, now the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, is founded on the premise that those who sponsor terrorist organizations are liable for the damages caused by those organizations. Motley Rice co-founder Ron Motley (1944 – 2013) served as lead counsel for the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism litigation until his passing. Today, several Motley Rice attorneys serve on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 lawsuit.

Justice Against the Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

JASTA allows “any person who aids and abets, by knowingly providing substantial assistance, or who conspires with the person who committed such an act of international terrorism” to be held liable for that action in U.S. courts. Additionally, it would remove any protections from civil actions that foreign states or officials could hide behind if they were found to be connected with acts of terrorism.

First introduced in 2009 and after years of scrutiny and consideration, JASTA unanimously passed the Senate (May 17, 2016) and the House (Sept. 9, 2016) before being vetoed by President Obama (Sept. 23, 2016). Congress voted to override the President’s veto on Sept. 28, 2016, allowing JASTA to become law. The override was the first to ever occur during Obama’s presidency. A two-thirds vote from both the Senate and House was needed to override the veto. The law now allows victims to hold foreign governments accountable in U.S. civil courts for sponsoring terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. 

In support of our clients, as well as numerous other victims of terrorist acts, we strongly support the 9/11 Families and Survivors in their pursuit of justice. Read the full text of the law, Justice Against the Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

Relevant Court Documents:
In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 

In further support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Relief of the Final Judgments Entered in Favor of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Plaintiffs filed the following affirmations:


Plaintiffs' Reference Materials


Letters, Press Releases and News Articles

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