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Reps. Lungren and Nadler Introduce Bill to Hold Foreign Sponsors of Terrorism Accountable

Washington, DC, June 8, 2012

Congressmen Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have joined together to introduce H.R. 5904, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).  H.R. 5904 would allow victims of terrorism to hold accountable all states who sponsor and finance terrorist activities. It is the House companion to bipartisan legislation in the Senate, S. 1894.

“We have joined together to introduce this important piece of legislation to make clear to state sponsors of terrorism and others who finance these heinous acts that they will be held accountable.  The courthouse door should not be closed to victims of terrorism and their families,” Lungren said. “We strongly agree with Judge Richard Posner’s statement that ‘Suits against foreign financiers of terrorism can cut the terrorist’s lifeline.’  Our proposal is aimed at doing that very thing.”

Current law was intended to permit victims of terrorism to bring suit against foreign states and entities that sponsor terrorism in the United States.   Unfortunately, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals disallowed claims made by the victims of the 9-11 attacks against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, several Saudi officials and a purported charitable organization under the control of the Kingdom.  This decision was rendered despite the acknowledgement by the court that the September 11 plaintiffs’ complaints offered a “wealth of detail… that, if true, reflect close working arrangements between ostensible charities and terrorist networks, including al Qaeda.”  

“Foreign governments that aid terrorists materially or otherwise must be held accountable,” said Nadler.  “Victims of terrorist attacks have the right to seek recourse from those who, criminally, provide the financial means to bring horrific acts of terrorism to fruition.  I am pleased to join my colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Dan Lungren, in offering this important piece of legislation.”

JASTA would allow the victims and their families of the attacks on 9-11 to reinstate their case to achieve justice and make it clear that future victims of terrorism in the United States will have the ability to bring suits in U.S. courts against foreign states and others who finance terrorism.  Among other things, it would:  

•    Enact findings that foreign sponsors of terrorist aggression against America necessarily direct their conduct at the United States.   This would counter attempts by the courts to second guess congressional intent concerning the relationship  between the sponsorship of terrorism and the conduct of terrorist attacks;

•    Restore congressional intent by clarifying that the FSIA’s tort exception applies to acts of terrorism, extrajudicial killing, and torture in the United States;

•    Clarify that the FSIA’s torts exception only requires that the injury occur in the United States and does not preclude claims for injuries occurring in the United States when the tort was carried out in part from abroad;

•    Authorize causes of action pursuant to the aiding and abetting and conspiracy under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991 (ATA);

•    Make the ATA available in cases against foreign states, to ensure that uniform liability standards apply in such cases rather than state law standards;

•    Extend the 4 year statute of limitations under the ATA to 15 years.


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