NEW YORK—Senator Charles Schumer is pushing a bill that would allow Americans to sue foreign countries and groups that sponsor terrorism.
Up for consideration next week in Washington, D.C., Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) will compensate victims and their families and perhaps deter future terrorist attacks.
“Terrorists also need resources. Our legislation will cut off their resources,” said Schumer. “It will serve as a warning to others that want to fund terrorist groups, that they can’t just walk away scot-free.”
In front of the 9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pools, the senator and a victim’s family gathered Monday to speak about the bill, to the surprise of onlookers and tourists visiting the solemn attraction.
Schumer explained that under his bill, “civil suits against foreign sponsors of terrorism can be held accountable in U.S. courts, where their conduct contributes to an attack that kills an American.”
“It will deny terrorism financiers the right to escape accountability through loopholes in interpreting current law,” reads a statement by the JASTA website, adding that right now “even standing across the border would be legally sufficient for them to escape.”
The bill would affect Hamas, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, according to Schumer.
“Along with the hijackers, the other culprits behind the terrorist attacks are the people who bankrolled the terrorist organizations, like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and countless others,” said Terry Strada, national co-chair of the 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism, a group that supports the bill. Strada’s family stood behind her as she spoke in remembrance of her husband who died in 9/11.
Since 2002, Strada and her family have been attempting to sue Saudi Arabia, individuals, and banks, but Saudi Arabia has eluded lawsuit by claiming sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).
Schumer’s bill will amend FSIA and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
“It is about money. But it’s not about money coming to me,” said Strada. “It’s about stopping money from going to the next terrorist, or to keep funding ISIS.”
The countermeasure against terrorist sponsors has been in the works since 2009, but only recently gained the support of many senators.
Schumer explained that some companies have tried to block the bill in the past. In June, rumors sprung up that Chiquita, a U.S. fruit company, spent $780,000 lobbying against the bill, which the company denied.
The bill will be considered next Thursday, on the 13th anniversary of 9/11. Schumer said he hoped the bill would pass by December 1.
“It’s Washington D.C., so anything could happen,” said Schumer, “But things look very, very good.”
The bill can be read in its entirety here.