Department Sells Out US Terror Victims (Again)
Tuchman and Morton Klein
President Trump did the right thing last October when he signed the
Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA) into law.
law was sorely needed to help American victims of international terrorism. It
closed loopholes in an earlier law—the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1992, which
afforded a civil remedy to American victims against their terrorist attackers
overseas. Loopholes in the 1992 law ended up hurting many American terror
victims, instead of affording them the justice they deserve, as Congress
there are troubling reports that State Department officials are going to
Congress to try to undo the ATCA before it goes into effect in January because
the Palestinian Authority is unhappy with the new law. The P.A. is reportedly claiming
that the ATCA will require it to lose U.S. aid unless the P.A. agrees to pay
court judgments to American victims of Palestinian Arab terrorism. State
Department officials are concerned that the P.A.’s unhappiness with the ATCA
may stand in the way of peace between the Palestinian Arabs and Israel.
ATCA is no obstacle to peace. If the P.A. is truly committed to achieving
peace, then it will agree to be held to account for any terrorist crimes
committed against an American citizen for which the P.A. was allegedly
responsible, which is what the ATCA requires.
P.A. and the Palestine Liberation Organization recently weaseled out of
accountability after American terror victims and their families obtained a legal
judgment against them in Sokolow v. PLO. This lawsuit was filed in
2004 under the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act. After waiting 10 years for their
day in court, the plaintiffs proved that the PLO and the P.A. orchestrated the
terror attacks in Israel that led to their injuries and deaths. Instead of
accepting the jury’s verdict and paying the $655.5 million judgment against
them, the two Palestinian terror entities appealed, claiming that the court
lacked jurisdiction over them.
reasons that would make it virtually impossible for many terror victims to hold
their terrorist perpetrators accountable under the 1992 law, the Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with the P.A. and the PLO on jurisdictional
grounds. The Second Circuit vacated the jury verdict and dismissed the
the victims and their families sought Supreme Court review of the Second
Circuit’s decision, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving the
Second Circuit’s decision in place and the victims without the justice they
deserved. The Supreme Court was undoubtedly influenced by the shameful
position that the U.S. government took in the case: Instead of siding with
the American terror victims and their families, the U.S. Solicitor
General—support by the State Department—actually urged the Supreme Court to
leave the Second Circuit’s decision as is, which meant that the terror victims
and their families would lose their civil remedy against their terrorist
Solicitor General’s position was made even more disgraceful when it came to
light that in 2007, the P.A. and the PLO unequivocally consented to the
jurisdiction of U.S. courts in all cases brought against them under the 1992
Anti-Terrorism Act. In documents submitted to a U.S. court, including sworn
statements by the P.A.’s own leadership, the PLO and P.A. represented that
their officials had met with the State Department and concluded that it was in
their own best interests, and in the interests of the United States, to defend
these cases on the merits and prove to the American people that they did not
provide material support for terrorism.
was a lie, as the Sokolow case shows. It was a lie at the expense of
the Americans who were killed and injured in P.A.- and PLO-orchestrated attacks
understood that the Sokolow decision undermined our country’s fight
against international terrorism. Congress appreciated that the Sokolow decision
impeded the rights and remedies that American terror victims were afforded under
the 1992 anti-terrorism law.
why Congress passed the ATCA—to make sure that all victims of terrorism
overseas would be better protected, and that terrorists would be more likely to
be held accountable for their crimes. Avoiding a lawsuit or getting out of
satisfying a court judgment after terror victims proved wrongdoing would no
longer be so easy for international terrorists.
the ATCA’s provisions is that if a defendant accepts U.S. foreign assistance
or operates an office inside the United States, then—as a condition of
accepting those privileges—the defendant is deemed to have consented to
personal jurisdiction in lawsuits brought under the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act.
law makes perfect sense. If the United States is going to assist you and provide
you with American taxpayer funds, then you will have to be answerable in U.S.
courts if you are alleged to have committed a terrorist crime against our
P.A. accepts U.S. foreign assistance. But it doesn’t want to agree to be
accountable in U.S. courts for allegedly injuring or killing Americans in
terrorist attacks overseas, as the ATCA requires.
outrageous and wrong. Our country has made a commitment to eradicate
international terrorism. Our leaders have made it clear that our
anti-terrorism laws will be vigorously enforced, in order to let terrorists know
that if they terrorize, harm or kill Americans anywhere in the world, they will
be held to account for their crimes and that justice will be served.
must send that message, loud and clear, to the P.A., too. Congress must
remain steadfast in supporting American interests and resist State Department
efforts to undermine the enforcement of the ATCA. If the P.A. won’t agree
to be answerable for alleged wrongdoing against American citizens, then the P.A.
must bear the consequences, as the ATCA requires. It must lose our
financial support because the legal rights, safety and well-being of U.S.
citizens must come first.