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senate Bill S. 2040

Should U.S. Victims of Terror Attacks be Able to Sue Responsible Foreign Governments?

Argument in favor

Foreign governments and their officials that sponsor or otherwise aid and abet terrorist attacks on U.S. soil shouldn’t have immunity from lawsuits filed by the victims of the attack or their survivors. This bill changes existing law to allow such suits to proceed.

BTSundra's Opinion
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04/22/2016
Many Arab nations sponsor terrorists outright. They should be held responsible for this.
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Mitch's Opinion
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07/19/2016
We need to make countries that harbor terrorists pay for what they are doing to us Americans. We need to make them feel the same pain and fear as they try to put on us. Let's hit the bad player countries were it hurts. In their wallets.
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Mark's Opinion
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04/23/2016
If a company was responsible they could sue, why should a terrorist country be any different.
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Argument opposed

Just as the federal government is protected from lawsuits overseas, the U.S. needs to protect foreign governments from lawsuits in America’s courts — even if the foreign government or its officials helped to facilitate an act of terrorism.

Nirvan's Opinion
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07/18/2016
As much as I believe that justice should be due to the countless acts of terrorism that happen in not only our backyard, but also other nations, this seems highly impractical. There would be no double standard because the US itself is involved in numerous foreign affairs where foreign governments would want to bring US officials and such to trial in their nation. This would weaken our global reputation, and create more enemies. Plus, in what court would we even process these terrorists? Something should be done to redeem justice for terrorism and backup victims and families of terrorist attacks, but this is not the solution.
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Steven's Opinion
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04/21/2016
This is can of worms we don't want to open. As many military campaigns as we (America) have been involved in and are still involved in from the first Iraq war to drone strikes now. If all the families and survivors of what we've done over there were able to sue us in turn. We would be in a lot of trouble. What defines an act of terrorism is a matter of perspective. People in the Middle East see our bombing campaigns as terrorism. It's a double edged sword unless you think the world will allow our citizens to sue and not allow citizens of other countries to sue in kind.
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operaman's Opinion
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04/20/2016
Damned if you do and damned if you don't. I would like to have voted yes, but long term ramification really has a bleak outcome.
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bill Progress


  • EnactedSeptember 28th, 2016
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The house Passed September 28th, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 348 Yea / 77 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
  • The senate Passed May 17th, 2016
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedSeptember 16th, 2015

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What is Senate Bill S. 2040?

This bill would make it easier for terrorist attack survivors and their family members to sue foreign governments and officials (that sponsor or otherwise supported the attackers) in federal court. 

Under current law, the Foreign Service Immunities Act (FSIA) gives foreign governments “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits filed in the U.S. under most circumstances — but this bill would change that law to exempt terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil thus allowing lawsuits to proceed.

Foreign governments and employees acting in an official capacity for them would no longer be able to use “sovereign immunity” as a defense against lawsuits seeking damages for acts of terrorism they helped facilitate. The new exceptions to the FSIA would include providing material or financial support to the attackers, or knowingly aiding and abetting them.

District courts would have jurisdiction over lawsuits filed against foreign governments in cases covered by this legislation after its enactment.

This legislation would retroactively apply to attacks that injured a person, property, or business on or after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and would be effective immediately upon enactment. It wouldn’t apply to U.S. government officials, and includes a severability clause that allows the remainder of this bill to remain intact if a portion of it is found to be invalid.

Impact

Victims of terror attacks carried out on U.S. soil and their families; foreign governments and their officials that support a terror attack being carried out; and federal courts.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2040

$0.00
The CBO estimates that enacting this bill wouldn’t have a significant effect on the federal budget.

More Information

Of Note: There has been a considerable amount of debate surrounding the immunity afforded foreign governments and their employees acting in an official capacity in the years since the 9/11 attacks. A lawsuit brought against a Saudi charity, four princes, and a banker because of the support they allegedly provided the al Qaeda hijackers was dismissed on the grounds that they are immune from prosecution. Of the 19 al Qaeda hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia.

The alleged Saudi involvement in assisting the hijackers is said to be detailed in 28 unreleased pages of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks. Some also believe the narrow wording of this finding by the 9/11 Commission Report leaves open the possibility that less senior officials or parts of the government helped facilitate the attacks:

“no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization”

In response to this legislation’s potential passage, the Saudi government denied playing any role in the 9/11 attacks. It also warned that it would look to sell $750 billion of U.S. treasury notes and other assets to prevent them from being frozen if the classified 28 pages of Congress’ inquiry are released.

According to a former Senator who worked on the congressional inquiry, the White House is informing those that compiled the report that President Obama will make a decision regarding the status of the 28 pages within 60 days.


In-Depth: This bill was introduced with bipartisan support by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to give the families of Americans killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks the chance to seek justice through the court system. Schumer summed up the rationale for the legislation saying:

“For countries to be able to aid the evil of terrorism and walk away scot-free while families suffer silently everyday with the loss of loved ones is wrong, unfair and painful, and this legislation undoes that injustice.”

This legislation was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has the bipartisan support of 22 Senate cosponsors — including 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Screenshot composite from Flickr user Marion Doss)

AKA

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

Popular Title

JASTA bill

Official Title

A bill to deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, and for other purposes.

    Many Arab nations sponsor terrorists outright. They should be held responsible for this.
    Like (28)
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    As much as I believe that justice should be due to the countless acts of terrorism that happen in not only our backyard, but also other nations, this seems highly impractical. There would be no double standard because the US itself is involved in numerous foreign affairs where foreign governments would want to bring US officials and such to trial in their nation. This would weaken our global reputation, and create more enemies. Plus, in what court would we even process these terrorists? Something should be done to redeem justice for terrorism and backup victims and families of terrorist attacks, but this is not the solution.
    Like (185)
    Follow
    Share
    This is can of worms we don't want to open. As many military campaigns as we (America) have been involved in and are still involved in from the first Iraq war to drone strikes now. If all the families and survivors of what we've done over there were able to sue us in turn. We would be in a lot of trouble. What defines an act of terrorism is a matter of perspective. People in the Middle East see our bombing campaigns as terrorism. It's a double edged sword unless you think the world will allow our citizens to sue and not allow citizens of other countries to sue in kind.
    Like (91)
    Follow
    Share
    Damned if you do and damned if you don't. I would like to have voted yes, but long term ramification really has a bleak outcome.
    Like (34)
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    This could be a Pandora's box rife with very negative unintended consequences.
    Like (27)
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    This is absurd. Why waste money on lawsuits that will never be collected and drag out the process of closure for families?
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    That doesn't really make sense. Alternatively, we could not pay Iran billions and create a fund for these people. Novel thought
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    Sure, we could allow this veto to be overridden, sue the heck out Iran, Saudi Arabia etc., but what about this comes back to bite us? For example, what if the survivors(or their heirs) of the Atomic Bombings in Japan decided to sue us?
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    We need to make countries that harbor terrorists pay for what they are doing to us Americans. We need to make them feel the same pain and fear as they try to put on us. Let's hit the bad player countries were it hurts. In their wallets.
    Like (6)
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    How would anyone even hold them accountable? All this would do is drain the suing person's bank account, create more work for the US justice system, and give the offending country a laugh. There's no one to hold them to honoring the decision and make them pay, so this is a rather useless piece of legislation at this time.
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    This is going to open the door for other countries to do the same. We already have a mechanism for interacting with them: it's called the government, and it's what we elect the legislative and executive branches for. The average citizen does not have the training or experience to sue other governments.
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    Yes, the Saudis should pay but not this way. Litigation is not the answer. Perhaps no more military support from us.
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    As many Countable members have said (in so many words), this sword could and WOULD cut both ways! The families of victims of terrorist attacks deserve justice, but this is not the way to seek it. I personally think that the way to see that justice is done for these families would be to: 1. Stop any and all forms of aid/support to Saudi Arabia and every other country that supports Islamic terrorism; 2. Wipe ISIS/ISIL/Daesh off the face of the Earth; 3. Ban further immigration of Muslims, given the fact that there is no CERTAIN means of adequately vetting them, plus they can be radicalized AFTER they come to America; 4. Start deporting every imam who encourages and supports jihad and shut down their mosques; and 5. Deport all Muslims suspected of terrorist activities. Now, we KNOW that this will never happen while Obama is in office, nor would it happen under a Hillary Clinton administration. Whether or not it would happen under a Donald Trump administration remains to be seen.
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    We are the bully of the whole world. Nope, shouldn't open that can of worms
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    If a company was responsible they could sue, why should a terrorist country be any different.
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    Not unless foreign countries are funding/encouraging the terrorists.
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    I hear the argument that we will be opening a can of worms if this passes because all you need be is a student of American War, Covert War, Black Budget Projects, & Foreign Policy to know that this would be a double edged sword with some of the things we've done & are doing & we'd be hit with an incalculable amount of Lawsuits ourselves, but isn't that what courts are for? Some will win as some will lose, but just to be able to give the victims & the victims' families their day in court, to hash it out, which they have fought & fought & fought harder to just get to this point, why not get them one step closer to their closure? Yes Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell $750 Billion in U.S. assets if this bill becomes law, but the fact that the "28 Pages" have come to light showing Saudi Arabian involvement with 9/11 at the highest levels, we must take a stand. The way they are conducting the war in Yemen, bombing hospitals & schools, the threats to the U.S. over this law passing, & forcing the U.N. to hold back its Children's rights objectives. Not to mention their abysmal human rights record, do we really want to be cozy with this "supposed ally" anyway? This law would strictly be limited to Proven Terrorist Acts Committed by Foreign Governments, so, as they tell us, if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.
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    Who will be jurors of their peers? Wouldn't make a fair trial. Who would pay even if they were found guilty? Do you really think other countries will abide by this? Do you think our government would stand up for you? Not!
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    If we should be able to, then the Japanese should sue us for Hiroshima.
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    Although the accountability of foreign nations for potential involvement in terrorist attacks on the United States is important, this is not the solution. Trying the legal accountability of a foreign nation should not take place by individual citizens, and should definitely not take place in a U.S. district court. This sets a dangerous precedent that could very easily backfire. Although the intent is to provide justice, I assert that this legislation will only provoke controversy and conflict.
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