Friday, September 9, 2016

Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for S. 2040, the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act”

Mr. Speaker, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States was the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in our Nation’s history. 

Its impact has been immeasurable as evidenced by the fact that we are still grappling with the cultural and policy implications stemming from the events of that day.

And, 15 years on, most Americans continue to feel its searing emotional impact, particularly as the anniversary date approaches this Sunday.

This is especially true for those who lost loved ones or were injured as a result of this horrific attack.  They deserve our deepest sympathy and our help.

So, it is in this vein that we consider S. 2040, the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” which, among other things, amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 to create a new exception to the Act’s general grant of foreign sovereign immunity. 

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this bill last July at which the bill’s supporters presented compelling and sympathetic arguments in favor of insuring that the 9/11 families have access to a well-deserved “day in court.”

At that same hearing, however, the Administration and others raised a number of concerns about the bill’s potential impact that we should keep in mind.

First, the Administration, some allied nations, and others assert that enactment of S. 2040 may lead to retaliation by other countries against the United States given the breadth of our interests and the expansive reach of our global activities.

Second, they assert the bill will hamper cooperation from other nations because they may become more reluctant to share sensitive intelligence in light of the greater risk that such information may be revealed in litigation.

Moreover, they raise the concern that the bill effectively would allow private litigants, rather than the government, to determine foreign and national security policy questions like which states are sponsors of terrorism.

Because of the moral imperative of enacting legislation and the seriousness of the concerns raised, I remain hopeful that we can continue to work with the Administration to resolve these issues so that legislation can be signed into law by the President.

I also want to acknowledge Representatives Peter King and Jerrold Nadler and Senators John Cornyn and Charles Schumer for their tireless leadership and efforts to achieve congressional passage of this measure.

There is no doubt as to the passion they bring to advocating for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a passion that I and many others share.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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