ON THE PRESIDENT’S VETO OF S. 2040, THE JUSTICE AGAINST SPONSORS OF TERRORISM ACT

September 28, 2016
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, the terrorist attacks perpetrated against our Nation 15 years ago killed nearly 3,000 people. No one can fully fathom the grief still felt by families to lose their loved ones in such a horrific way. We understand the need to continue to seek justice against those who may have aided and abetted the individuals that orchestrated these attacks. However, this legislation is not the right way to go about achieving that justice.

   JASTA abrogates a core principle in international law--foreign sovereign immunity. There are already several exceptions to this immunity recognized by our Nation and others, but JASTA goes much further than any present exception or recognized practice of any national law. Mr. Speaker, as the gentleman from Texas just suggested, one fundamental indication of fairness of legislation is not how it would work to our benefit, but what we would think if it were used against us.

   If the United States decides to allow our citizens to haul foreign nations into American courts, what would we think of other nations enacting legislation allowing their citizens to do the same thing to us?

   Obviously, we would not want to put our diplomats, military, and private companies at that risk.

   Consider our Nation's actions in Iraq. While there may be questions about Saudi Arabia's indirect involvement in 9/11, there is no question about who the state-sponsored actor was in 2003 when we bombed Baghdad and killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people with little or no evidence that Iraq was any immediate threat to the United States or our allies.

   What would we think if Iraq enacted legislation similar to JASTA, allowing their citizens to sue the United States for acts perpetrated during the Iraqi war?

   American soldiers and contractors living and working in Iraq today could be hauled in to Iraqi court, tried by an Iraqi judge, held responsible by an Iraqi jury that would assess the amount of money owed to each and every Iraqi citizen killed or maimed.

   Furthermore, if they adopted similar legislation to this, other nations could sue the United States and our citizens for sponsoring organizations they deem as terrorist organizations. Unfortunately, these discussions are already taking place in capitals around the world because of this legislation.

   JASTA does not make clear how the evidence would be gathered to help build a credible case against a foreign nation.

   Would the plaintiffs be able to subpoena foreign officials? Or would the U.S. Department of State officials have to testify? Would we be required to expose sensitive materials in order to help American citizens prove their case? Again, how would we feel about foreign judges and juries deciding whether or not the United States sponsored terrorism?

   There are also questions about how the judgment under JASTA would be enforced. The legislation does not address how a court would enforce the judgment.

   Could foreign assets be attached? How would this process work if other countries enacted similar legislation? Would U.S. assets all over the world be subject to attachment to satisfy the foreign jury verdicts?

   Mr. Speaker, there are many other more responsible mechanisms that this body could enact to hold foreign actors accountable for their involvement in international terrorism without exposing the United States or our citizens to lawsuits all over the world.

   We should do the responsible thing, Mr. Speaker, and sustain the President's veto of this legislation.