Washington, D.C. — The House of Representatives today approved by voice vote the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 (H.R. 5954), authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). This legislation protects American victims of international terrorism and ensures access to compensation for those impacted by acts of terror. The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act 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.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler praised today’s passage of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act in the statements below.
Chairman Goodlatte: “The bipartisan, bicameral Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act tightens accountability measures that terrorist sponsors have exploited to evade liability so that we can ensure that Americans are able to hold terrorists and their supporters accountable. With the dangers U.S. citizens continue to face at home and abroad, this clarification bill is more necessary than ever.
“I am encouraged by the House’s swift consideration of this important legislation and I look forward to working with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley and Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Nelson to quickly pass this legislation through the Senate and get it to the President’s desk.”
Ranking Member Nadler: “This bipartisan bill amends the Antiterrorism Act, or ATA, to make it easier for American victims of international terrorism to have their day in court, to obtain some measure of justice for their injuries, 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, and this important legislation makes it clear that violent actions targeted at U.S. civilians by a terrorist group are acts of terrorism that could give rise to liability under the ATA. I am proud to be the lead Democratic sponsor in the House of this bill, and thank my colleagues for their cooperation and support.”
Key Components of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act:
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 court.
Expanding Access to Remedies for Victims of Narco-Terrorism
Under current law, American victims of terrorism may use the assets of a 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, are currently unavailable to victims of terrorism. This leaves victims of narco-terrorism 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 Terrorism Cases
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 leaves in place a flawed circuit court decision regarding 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 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.