– Today, the U.S. House
of Representatives approved the Anti-Terrorism
Clarification Act of 2018
, a bill authored by Senate Judiciary
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to improve access to justice in U.S.
courts for Americans who are victimized by acts of terrorism while
abroad. The legislation addresses flawed federal court interpretations by reinforcing
Congress’ original intent when it passed the Antiterrorism Act of 1992
which was also introduced by Grassley.
“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. I look forward to President
Trump signing it into law,” Grassley said.
The bill is cosponsored
by Sens. 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.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John
Kennedy (R-La.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.). It was introduced
by Grassley, and was approved
by the Senate
With approval from both
houses of Congress, the legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be
signed into law.
A brief description of
the bill’s provisions follows.
Ending “Acts of War” Exemption Abuse
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 who 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 court.
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 judgments. The Anti-Terrorism
Clarification Act clarifies that assets blocked under the Kingpin Act are
available to victims.
Clarifying 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 Organization—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 Clarification
Act 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.
the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 is available HERE