Government

On Eve of 9/11, House Votes to Allow Litigation Against Terror Networks

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 Rep. Leonard Lance speaks in favor of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act on the House floor. Credits: Courtesy C-SPAN
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WASHINGTON, D.C.  --- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), in an unanimous, bipartisan vote.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th), a cosponsor of the legislation, urged the support of his colleagues and the signature of the president to see this bill into law.

“New Jersey lost more than 700 residents in the attacks, 81 of them from communities I represent here in Congress,” Lance reminded his colleagues. “As we approach the fifteenth anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 it is appropriate that we in Congress are finally authorizing that victims from that terrible day have the right to pursue full justice in our courts of law.

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"I know some of those names and I know all of those communities. They deserve their day in court,” he added.

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act will allow terrorism victims in the United States to pursue civil claims against terrorists and those who aided them. The need for the legislation came into greater focus this spring, after Lance and others called for the declassification of the so-called "secret 28 pages" that were redacted from the 838-page official report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The administration agreed to declassify the pages after public pressure, and now some 9/11 families want to pursue litigation against Saudi Arabia for possible terror ties. While Lance said the new information is not expressly incriminating, he thinks the matter belongs in U.S. courts to determine the facts.

The House bill, which ratified a unanimously passed Senate version, now heads to the president’s desk.     

“I am a lawyer and I have worked with constitutional and statutory issues. This legislation does not convict any one person or any one nation, but gives the loved ones of those who died recourse for full justice and compensation,” Lance said during debate on the house floor.   

Terry Strada of Morris County, a 9/11 widow and mother of three and National Chair of 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, also touted the bill and urged the president’s signature.

“For the memory of my husband, Mr. President, please sign this bill into law," Strada said. "As a 9/11 widow, I thank the members of Congress, like Congressman Lance, who stood today with the 9/11 community and supported this bill. 

"It is good policy to hold accountable those who aid and abet terrorist attacks against our nation that murder innocent people and cause injuries to our citizens," she added. "JASTA is an important tool in our arsenal against the evil ideology that spawned the hate-filled murderous attacks against our country on 9/11.”

The White House has said President Obama may veto the legislation, saying it will compromise U.S. relationships with foreign countries implicated in terror actions . Lance disagrees.

“This is backward logic," Lance said. "Those nations should recognize the fundamental justice in legal remedies against a terrorist network that killed 3,000 Americans.”

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