Congressman Nadler Praises Passage of Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

Sep 9, 2016 Issues: 9/11 Attacks, Foreign Affairs/Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and lead Democratic sponsor of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in support of legislation that helps ensure that those responsible for aiding and abetting terrorist attacks are held accountable for their actions. Ahead of the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, which murdered thousands of Americans in Congressman Nadler’s district, this legislation provides clarity to the courts with regards to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as well as justice to 9/11 victims and their families who have been unable to pursue their claims in court against some of the parties they believe were responsible for funding the attacks.

Below is the prepared text of Rep. Nadler’s statement delivered on the House Floor, with full video found here:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” or JASTA.  I am proud to be the lead Democratic sponsor of this bill, alongside my friend from New York, Mr. King, and I appreciate all of his hard work on this legislation.

“On Sunday, we will observe the 15th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, when thousands of Americans were brutally murdered in my district in New York, as well as at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  JASTA would help ensure that those responsible for aiding and abetting those attacks are held accountable for their actions.  Unfortunately, because of certain court decisions misinterpreting the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act, the 9/11 victims, and their families, have been unable to pursue their claims in court against some of the parties they believe were responsible for funding the attacks.

“JASTA simply reinstates what was understood to be the law for 30 years—that foreign states may be brought to justice for aiding and abetting acts of international terrorism that occur on American soil, whether or not the conduct that facilitated the attack occurred in the United States.

“Think of it this way: some courts have held that if a foreign government agent hands over a million-dollar check to Al Qaeda from a café in New York to fund a terrorist attack in the United States, that government can be sued in an American court.  But, if that same foreign agent funds the same attack by handing over the same million-dollar check from a café in Geneva, his government should be immune from liability.

“That makes no sense, and it flies in the face of what had been settled law for many years.  We must correct these erroneous court decisions so that anyone who facilitates a terrorist attack on our people can be brought to justice.  Let me be clear: this legislation does not pre-judge the merits of any particular case.  It simply ensures that the 9/11 families, or anyone else who may face the same situation, can plead their case in court.

“Some critics of this bill have argued that if we pass it, other nations may retaliate by enacting similar laws that could subject Americans, or the United States itself, to liability in those countries.  However, I find this argument unpersuasive.  The United States does not engage in international terrorist activity, and would not face any legal jeopardy if a law like JASTA were enacted anywhere else.

“Furthermore, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and its well-established tort exception, has been the law for 40 years.  In that time, we simply have not seen the parade of horribles that some critics imagine would happen if JASTA were to become law.

“We cannot allow threats from a country that fears being held to account for its actions, and may threaten retaliation of some sort, to deny victims of terrorist attacks their day in court.  Moreover, this legislation contains a reasonable provision allowing for a stay of court proceedings if the President is engaging in good faith negotiations to resolve the claim through diplomatic channels. 

“JASTA is a narrow bill that has been carefully negotiated over the last six years, and which passed the Senate unanimously in May.  It would provide clarity to the courts, and justice to the victims of 9/11, and it deserves swift passage today.

“I yield back the balance of my time.”

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