Today, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, JASTA, became a law that will now allow foreign sponsors of terrorist attacks in the U.S. to be held accountable in U.S. civil courts, abolishing foreign governments’ immunity for their role in supporting terror attacks on U.S. soil. Motley Rice LLC commends Congress for its actions to override the veto.
Today, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, respectively, voted to override a presidential veto of JASTA, following the President’s veto of the bill on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. A vote of more than two-thirds from the House and Senate was achieved in order to override the President’s veto of the bill. The overwhelming support for JASTA is shown by the fact that this veto override marks the first time that Congress has overridden a veto by President Obama.
The House unanimously passed the bill on Friday, Sept. 9 and the Senate unanimously passed the bill on May 17, 2016.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Motley Rice attorneys initiated and led the 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 dedicated significant time and resources into al Qaeda’s financing and material support in a global investigation for clients demanding accountability. When the first suit was filed by attorneys with Motley Rice in August 2002, Ron Motley described the suit, saying “it is about protecting all Americans from the future atrocities these barbarians are planning.” Asked about the enormity of the task of proving the case, Motley assured “we’ll leave no stone unturned, I can assure you of that.”
In August 2002, Motley Rice filed the first civil action for 500 survivors and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks. 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 nearly 6,000 survivors and family members, which became organized under the title 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism to support the JASTA legislation. 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, 03 MDL 1570. The litigation strives to hold responsible the individuals, banks, corporations and purported charities historically implicated in sponsoring al Qaeda’s terrorist activities. This lawsuit is based on the principles of safety and freedom from terrorism and is designed to deter and strip resources from those individuals and entities that fund terrorism, and ultimately depriving them of the means to sponsor or otherwise promote future acts of terror.
For 40 years, since 1976, the U.S. has laws designed to enable victims of terrorism to bring suit against foreign states and entities that sponsor terrorism in the United States. However, in 2009, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed claims by victims of the 9/11 terror attacks against Saudi Arabia and so-called charities based in that country. The Second Circuit held that no one could be accountable for financing or supporting a terrorist attack in the United States as long as the money or support was given outside of the United States.
The Senate first introduced JASTA in 2009 with the full support of the 9/11 Families and Survivors and their support has remained since that time. Signed into law today, JASTA finally corrects and restores the ability to bring suit against foreign governments for alleged terror attacks on U.S. soil.
“JASTA becoming a law is long overdue. I am pleased that the 9/11 Families and Survivors finally received the recognition from our elected officials that they so deserve. All congressional members should be commended for coming together, something we don’t see often enough, to see this legislation become law. For years, the 9/11 Families and Survivors displayed the courage to ‘Do Something’ — the final words of Tom Burnett who heroically took over Flight 93 with the other brave passengers, saving our nation’s capital from further harm. They selflessly saved countless lives. I also thank the co-sponsors for their leadership in helping see this bill pass and for everyone who has supported this bill and the Families from the beginning,” said Jodi Westbrook Flowers, Motley Rice LLC member and attorney for 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism.
“The 19 hijackers who murdered thousands of Americans on 9/11 did not act alone. They could not have succeeded in the attack without significant material support, including the financial means, to carry out Sept. 11, 2001. They spoke limited English, some needed help with pilot school in order to learn how to fly a plane, others were provided banking services, training, housing and transportation.” she said.
Flowers continued, “Our investigation into those who provided the material support to al Qaeda and Bin Laden will speak for itself in a court of law. It is time for the legal maneuvering by the Saudis to end, it is time for the 9/11 Families and Survivors’ day in Court.”
Motley Rice attorney Robert Haefele described JASTA as sound public policy that safeguards the rights of those harmed by terrorism. “Beyond finding accountability for the 9/11 Families, JASTA is a mechanism to help protect Americans by being a deterrent to future terrorist attacks. Knowing that justice will prevail in an American court, would-be terrorists and those who support them financially and logistically should take heed,” Haefele said. He, as well as the 9/11 families and survivors are thankful for Congress’ show of strong, bipartisan support, he said.
To learn more about JASTA, visit www.passjasta.org.
Watch the Aug. 15, 2002 press conference with the 9/11 Families and Survivors.
Read the Aug. 15, 2002 press release issued following the first civil lawsuit filing by attorneys with Motley Rice LLC.