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senate Bill S. 230

Punishing Foreign Countries for Helping Their Citizens Escape Criminal Charges in the U.S.

Argument in favor

Foreign governments that choose to help their citizens evade the U.S. justice system should face consequences for doing so.

Mark's Opinion
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05/28/2019
When foreign nationals accused of committing rape, murder or other violent crimes escape our justice system through whatever means, we as a nation must take swift, harsh action. America must bring them back to the United States for justice. By whatever means necessary. If they resist or their governments resist, we come down on them like a truck load of lead bricks. Punishments must once again fit the crime as in centuries past. We need to get back to basics. We need to make punishment personal, painful and unforgettable. https://www.foxnews.com/us/saudi-nationals-facing-criminal-charges-in-oregon-have-strangely-vanished-in-recent-years-report-says
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Michele's Opinion
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05/29/2019
Too bad Donald the acting prez doesn’t penalize Saudi Arabia for killing an American.
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burrkitty's Opinion
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05/29/2019
Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times a pattern. Four or more is statistically significant. Is how the saying goes, right? Do it. Clearly, somebody is helping people escape the law. I would also like to point out once again SAUDI ARABIA IS NOT A GOOD ALLY. Cut bait.
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Argument opposed

This bill seeks to target the Saudi government, but that government has already denied its role in any cases where its citizens have disappeared from the U.S. while facing criminal charges.

Paul's Opinion
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05/28/2019
Under normal circumstances I’d say yes to this. But the current administration is not one that I or any sane American can trust with this power.
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PLD's Opinion
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05/29/2019
With the current administration, I’m reluctant to trust it with any more power.
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Steve's Opinion
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05/28/2019
If other countries tried this the US would likely invade.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Finance
    IntroducedJanuary 25th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 230?

This bill — the Preserving American Justice Act — would impose significant consequences on foreign consulates that help their citizens escape legal accountability in the U.S.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Charge the Department of Justice (DOJ) with maintaining an annual report about foreign nationals who flee before facing justice in the United States. Currently, no agency formally tracks this information;
  • Require the Director of National Intelligence to maintain a list of countries that facilitate the escape of foreign nationals; and
  • Create a tax penalty for any countries that land on such a list, removing a tax exemption that foreign governments and sovereign wealth funds are able to access on certain types of investment income. This penalty could significantly impact the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which is estimated at near $400 billion.

This bill also has a specific provision relating to consequences for Saudi Arabia. If the DOJ determines that the Saudi government assisted any alleged criminal in escaping justice in the United States, the bill would prohibit the issuance of all visas and travel to the United States to the following groups of Saudi nationals: the Council of Ministers, their respective families, King Salman, all of his direct descendants and full-relatives.

Impact

U.S. law enforcement; Saudi international studies accused of crimes in the U.S.; foreign consulates; the DOJ; and the Director of National Intelligence.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 230

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Ron Wyden (R-OR) introduced this bill in response to reports that Saudi consular officials in the U.S. helped Abdulrahmeen Sameer Noorah, a Saudi national, escape the U.S. shortly before his trial for manslaughter, felony hit-and-run, and reckless driving after fatally striking an Oregon teen with his car:

“More than a month after The Oregonian first put a spotlight on how Saudi Arabia’s government apparently helped accused criminals flee the United States, the Trump Administration has failed to explain what, if anything, it is doing to ensure these men face American justice. That’s totally unacceptable. Our bills will force the Justice Department to get to the bottom of what happened, and create tough consequences for any government that helps flout the U.S. justice system.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), an original cosponsor of this bill, adds:

“When anyone within our nation commits a crime, they need to be held accountable—especially when that crime results in the death of an innocent teenager. Saudi Arabia’s blatant disrespect for international norms cannot be allowed to stand. We need a wholesale rethinking of our relationship with Saudi Arabia—and we should all be able to agree that any nation that helps their citizens escape from the law needs to be held fully accountable. After the shocking murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, this is yet another sign of Saudi Arabia’s flaunting of diplomatic norms.”

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in December 2018, Rep. Wyden detailed law enforcement’s belief that Saudi Arabia helped Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a Saudi student accused of a fatal hit-and-run in 2017, escape the U.S. and asked what the Trump administration is doing to try to get him back so he can be held accountable for his alleged crime. Rep. Wyden also called for a thorough investigation of Noorah’s disappearance:

“These [allegations that Saudi Arabia assisted Noorah’s escape] are shocking claims in any event, but with the barbaric murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, they suggest a brazen pattern of disregard for the law and abuse of diplomatic privileges. If they are accurate, they would require significant restrictions on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic privileges and call into question the future of America’s bilateral relationship with the Saudis…. Since the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, what steps is the Trump administration taking to ensure Mr. Noorah is accountable for the death of Ms. Smart?”

After following up on his December 2018 letter with a February 5, 2019 letter to Secretary Pompeo and making a direct plea to FBI Director Christopher Wray during a Senate intelligence hearing on January 29, 2019, all to no avail. Sen. Wyden cast doubt on the Trump administration’s motives in a February interview with VICE:

“Not only is it very frustrating, but you’ve got to wonder what [the Trump administration’s] priorities are. For months and months we’ve heard those people talk about ‘America First’—well, to look at this it seems like they’re putting Saudi Arabia first. It’s been six weeks since law enforcement said the Saudis played an important role in whisking these suspects out of the country. When it comes to standing up for these families against these brutal crimes—rape, manslaughter—is the Trump administration going to in effect say, ‘Not interested’? Let’s let them describe what the argument is for the callous and indifferent treatment of these families whose lives are never going to be the same. Senators are in the business of talking. That’s what we do. But I’ve spoken with those parents and there are really no words you can say. Their lives are never going to be the same and they want justice done. The president, of course, is always talking about business opportunities with the Saudis and their making investments that create jobs and the like. But what it looks like to me is you have a medieval regime trying to repeatedly flout modern diplomatic norms. Is the Trump administration going to be complicit? Secretary Pompeo should call the Saudi ambassador into his office tomorrow. Certainly both at home and in Washington DC there’s a growing awareness of just how shocking this is, what an injustice this is. And until I believe the Trump administration is finally getting the message, this is not going away.”

The Saudi government completely denies any wrongdoing. In a statement saying that it provides legal assistance to all its citizens who are incarcerated, it says:

“The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all of its officials strictly adhere to all US laws while inside the United States… Saudi diplomatic missions in the United States do not issue travel documents to citizens engaged in legal proceedings. The notion that the Saudi government actively helps citizens evade justice after they have been implicated in legal wrongdoing in the U.S. is not true.”

On February 13, 2019, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told Sen. Wyden in a meeting at the senator’s office that a multi-agency probe into the cases of Saudi students disappearing in both Oregon and other states had begun. Sen. Wyden says that McAleenan said the administration is taking the cases seriously, and he requested direct action be taken quickly, as the senator would be “bird-dogging this case every step of the way.

This bill has one cosponsorSen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).


Of NoteIn January 2019, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive revealed at least five cases of Saudi nations vanishing before facing trial or completing their jail sentences in Oregon. The cases included rape, two hit-and-runs, and possession of child pornography. The investigation found a number of commonalities in all five cases:

  • All involved young men studying at a public college or university in Oregon with assistance from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the time of their arrest;
  • In four of the cases, the Saudi government stepped in to help, posting large sums of money for bail and possibly underwriting legal fees;
  • Three surrendered their passports;
  • All disappeared while facing charges or jail time;
  • The same Oregon defense attorney, Ginger Mooney, was hired to represent the four most recent suspects; and
  • Little is known of the whereabouts of the five, though some have been traced back to Saudi Arabia.

Federal law enforcement officials in the Dept. of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service told The Oregonian/OregonLive that they believe the Saudis helped orchestrate the escape of one of the students, Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, and that Noorah arrived back in Saudi Arabia 19 months ago. Noorah was accused of killing 15-year-old Fallon Smart in a fatal hit-and-run in 2017. Two weeks before his June 2017 trial, Noorah was picked from his Southeast Portland home up by a private car, which drove him to a sand-and-gravel yard two miles away. There, he sliced off a tracking monitor that he’d worn for months, discarding it at the scene. After that, law enforcement officials believe Noorah got an illicit passport and boarded a plane (likely a private carrier) to flee the U.S.

Chris Larsen, a lawyer for Smart’s mother, Fawn Lengvenis, says of the situation, “It begs the question: Why isn’t the Saudi government respecting our justice system? It’s reprehensible.”

In a statement through Larsen, Fallon Smart’s family ads:

“It appears this is just the tip of the iceberg. This isn’t just a disregard for our laws and justice system. It seems to be Saudi policy and practice to assist their citizens in fleeing from justice, all serious crimes for which they should be held accountable. Each new report is devastating and disgraceful.”

In a follow-up to his original article, the reporter who wrote the original Oregonian/OregonLive article reported additional cases of Saudi international studies vanishing while facing criminal charges in at least seven other states — Montana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington State— and the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

The number of Saudi students in the U.S. has risen dramatically since 2005, when the country created a generous scholarship program for those seeking to study abroad. The program covers full tuition, provides a monthly living stipend, and offers other perks to those who attend American colleges or universities. According to the Institute of International Education, over 44,000 Saudis — including around 1,000 at Oregon colleges and universities — studied in the U.S. in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Since the U.S. and Saudi Arabia don’t have an extradition treaty, an arrest of Saudi nationals who’ve fled the U.S. in Saudi Arabia is unlikely.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / RyanJLane)

AKA

Preserving American Justice Act

Official Title

A bill to require a report on foreign nationals who flee from the United States while awaiting trial or sentencing for a criminal offense committed in the United States, to establish a list of countries who have assisted or facilitated with such departures, to penalize parties connected to such departures, and to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to prohibit the exclusion from gross income from certain investments made by foreign governments who are identified on such list.

    When foreign nationals accused of committing rape, murder or other violent crimes escape our justice system through whatever means, we as a nation must take swift, harsh action. America must bring them back to the United States for justice. By whatever means necessary. If they resist or their governments resist, we come down on them like a truck load of lead bricks. Punishments must once again fit the crime as in centuries past. We need to get back to basics. We need to make punishment personal, painful and unforgettable. https://www.foxnews.com/us/saudi-nationals-facing-criminal-charges-in-oregon-have-strangely-vanished-in-recent-years-report-says
    Like (48)
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    Under normal circumstances I’d say yes to this. But the current administration is not one that I or any sane American can trust with this power.
    Like (73)
    Follow
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    Too bad Donald the acting prez doesn’t penalize Saudi Arabia for killing an American.
    Like (36)
    Follow
    Share
    With the current administration, I’m reluctant to trust it with any more power.
    Like (30)
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    Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times a pattern. Four or more is statistically significant. Is how the saying goes, right? Do it. Clearly, somebody is helping people escape the law. I would also like to point out once again SAUDI ARABIA IS NOT A GOOD ALLY. Cut bait.
    Like (23)
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    I’m in full agreement with Senate Bill S.230 which will conduct sanctioning of Foreign governments that choose to help their citizens evade the U.S. justice system should face consequences for doing so. SneakyPete..... 5*28*19.....
    Like (18)
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    If other countries tried this the US would likely invade.
    Like (12)
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    NO ONE, EVEN OTHER COUNTRIES ARE ABOVE OUR LAWS...(except the trump family of course)😁
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    There are so many laws that trample all over individual rights, it isn't funny. Nobody should be punished for helping others avoid punishment for exercising or freedoms. Furthermore, sanctions and other measures meant to hurt foreign governments only end up hurting the people who happen to live under those governments, and such policies should not be pursued.
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    I feel we need to apply this legislation to our own leaders and politicians, police, lawyers, and judges, wealthy individuals and corporations (Who are now “People”). There is more corruption in The United States protecting all of the above. Let’s set an example and put an entire Corporation in prison, since they are people. Keep all the executives, management and shareholders inside the building and place electric fence and razor wire around the entire complex. Then seize all of their assets and pay for Ethics programs, such as this and give back to the people.
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    Oh gee, this bill is from Wyden. He gets a bug up his ...nose...every chance he gets with Trump. Note: this goes after the Saudis, but the last line of this article is..."Since the U.S. and Saudi Arabia don’t have an extradition treaty, an arrest of Saudi nationals who’ve fled the U.S. in Saudi Arabia is unlikely." So, this is nothing more than another I hate Trump legislation that won't make it past the Senate. What a waste of time. I've given up on the House doing anything of any real value for Americans.
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    Citizens of foreign countries are their responsibility. Unless they immigrants living here, they shouldn’t be held prisoner here.
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    This should be a no brainer. But of course the Democrats want to protect criminals and illegals. No matter what they have done or if they are even supposed to be here. Makes me sick.
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    No one ( hint hint) is above the law!
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    Until the United States becomes a member of the International Court, it’s hypocrisy to demand other countries citizens face justice in the U.S. while we have politicians, corporate CEO’s, and some in our military who have been accused of crimes against humanity and refuse to face justice.
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    We basically are the only country in the world that gives Diplomatic immunity. Which is STUPID. If you go to another country and do STUPID STUFF. You get usually convicted and go to jail. Why are we so stupid to let people get away with stuff here and let other countries protect their citizens from bad behavior and we just give the MEH. Get tougher on these bad behavior countries and their CITIZENS.
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    Yes. Foreign countries must not abuse nor circumvent the laws of USA.
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    How about you set to work arranging extradition treaties so they can be returned. Do you think we would hand over a iUS citizen to a foreign country?? Get real
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    Take away any aid and put them on notice.
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    Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi, not an American.
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