WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of Senators led by Senate
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today introduced legislation to
protect American victims of international terrorism and ensure access to
compensation for those impacted by acts of terror. The Anti-Terrorism
Clarification Act of 2018 makes needed improvements to the Antiterrorism
Act of 1992 to better ensure that American victims of international terrorism
can obtain justice in U.S. courts by holding accountable those who commit, or
aid and abet, terrorist activity abroad. The bill is cosponsored by Senators
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ted Cruz
(R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Christopher
Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).
In the House of
Representatives, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member
Jerrold Nadler introduced companion legislation.
“Over twenty-five years ago, I led the Senate’s effort to pass the
Antiterrorism Act to improve justice for Americans victimized by acts of
terrorism abroad. Congress’ intent was clear: U.S. victims of international
terrorism should be able to seek justice in U.S. courts against those
responsible, no matter where the attacks occurred. But recent flawed court
decisions have undermined the law’s purpose. Our bill is a carefully balanced
approach to better ensure victims’ access to compensation and to hold supporters
of terrorism accountable,” Grassley
“The FARC murdered Tom Janis
and held Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Tom Howes captive for five years,
after their plane went down in a Colombian jungle while on a mission for the
U.S. Government. These brave Americans and their families, like all victims of
terrorism, deserve a measure of justice. That’s what this bill is all about,” Nelson said.
“Congress should quickly
seize this important opportunity to help American victims of Palestinian
terrorism after the U.S. Solicitor General failed to stand with them in their
appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. I am proud
to support Chairman Grassley’s legislation to strengthen U.S. laws for holding international
terrorists and their benefactors fully accountable for the suffering that they
inflict on American victims and their families,” Rubio said.
“The history of Palestinian
and Iranian terrorism against Americans is extensive, going decades and ranging
from hijackings to suicide bombings and assassinations. For too long American
citizens have been disgracefully denied justice. This bill will ensure that
American victims of terrorism are empowered to secure accountability from terrorists
and their supporters,” Cruz said.
“Victims of terrorism and
their families have waged courageous legal campaigns to hold terrorists
accountable for their atrocities, only to be thwarted by legal loopholes. This
bipartisan legislation will help ensure that terrorist defendants cannot hide
from American justice,” Blumenthal said.
“This is a strong bipartisan
effort to better ensure that victims of terrorism have ample opportunity to
seek justice against their attackers both domestically and abroad. The Anti-Terrorism
Clarification Act restores Congress’ intent that terrorist organizations and
those who aid and abet them can be held accountable for their crimes against
“American victims of
terrorist attacks deserve to have their legal claims heard in U.S. courts. I am
proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill that ensures that our laws
hold terrorist organizations that harm Americans accountable,” Coons said.
“Every provision in the
Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act is designed to tighten accountability measures
for those who commit acts of terrorism and to provide victims with compensation
and added access to justice through our courts. With the dangers U.S. citizens
face at home and abroad, this clarification bill is more necessary than ever. I
thank my colleagues in the House and the Senate for their dedication to
ensuring justice for victims of terrorism,” Goodlatte said.
“This legislation will make
it easier for Americans who are victims of international terrorism to have
their day in court and to hold terrorists accountable for their heinous acts. I
have long championed efforts to help victims of terrorism obtain some measure
of justice and compensation for their injuries, including by helping to lead
bipartisan efforts to enact the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and
to reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, and I am proud to be the
lead Democratic House sponsor of this new legislation,” Nadler said.
Ending “Acts of War” Exemption Abuse
The Antiterrorism Act of 1992
exempted lawful “acts of war” from the scope of its civil liability provisions.
However, some defendants accused of aiding and abetting acts of international
terrorism have successfully claimed in court that the law’s “act of war”
defense shields them from civil liability, even when the act of terrorism was perpetrated
by a designated terrorist group.
The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018
clarifies that the “act of war” defense does not apply to acts carried out by entities
designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S. government or any
person that has been determined by the court to not be a military force. This
simple amendment will help ensure that American victims of terrorism—including
soldiers and other personnel serving abroad—can have their rightful day in
Expanding Access to Remedies for Victims of
Under current law, American
victims of terrorism may use the assets of a perpetrating terrorist entity that
are frozen by the U.S. government to satisfy court-awarded judgments. Assets
frozen under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”),
however, currently remain unavailable to victims of terrorism. This leaves
victims of narco-terrorism or other drug-related terrorist activity without a
meaningful method of satisfying their Antiterrorism Act judgements. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act
clarifies that assets blocked under the Kingpin Act are available to victims.
Clarifies U.S. Court Jurisdiction in Foreign
Recent flawed court decisions
have called into question the Antiterrorism Act’s continued ability to hold
terrorists or their supporters accountable in U.S. courts. For example, the
Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny certiorari in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation
—a case in which Chairman Grassley led a bipartisan amicus brief
—leaves in place a flawed circuit court decision
gutting the extraterritorial scope of the 1992 law. Carrying out or assisting
an act of international terrorism that injures or kills Americans abroad should
provide sufficient justification to subject defendants to U.S. legal sanctions.
Moreover, no one benefiting from a U.S. program, such as foreign assistance, or
maintaining a presence in the United States should be able to simultaneously
dodge responsibility in U.S. courts for involvement in terrorist attacks that
harm Americans. The Anti-Terrorism
clarifies that certain defendants who take advantage of
benefits under certain U.S. laws shall be deemed to have consented to
jurisdiction in U.S. courts for any Antiterrorism Act lawsuit.
Text of the Anti-Terrorism
Clarification Act of 2018
is available HERE