JASTA: Is the US more authoritative than an international court?

By | September 29, 2016

This US bill, which was passed yesterday, is highly concerning. To highly oversimplify things, it looks like this bill is trying to make the world subject to American law and American definitions on anything related to terrorism (however the US decides to define terrorism now and in the future). Of course, all without asking the rest of the world on their opinion about it (both Saudi Arabia and the EU have expressed views against JASTA, among other things because it is not compatible with international treaties). And of course, how much power of jurisdiction the US actually has overseas, is another matter completely.

Given how vague and broad the banner of terrorism has become, close to anything – e.g. not complying with a request to have all data intercepted and scanned by US intelligence – might be considered as something related to terrorism. That's a very scary thought, in my opinion, especially for activities that are not within US jurisdiction!

That all said, while I can understand and sympathize with the motivations behind this bill, I still think that there are better mechanisms of going about them than enacting this bill. And I'm sure there are others who can find even better mechanisms to do so than I can. But no one asked me – why should they? After all, I'm not American.

This could be one messy law with unintended consequences. For example, to turn the tables: I wonder if anyone will be using that law to sue the US for their interference in the Middle East, in Vietnam, or in any other number of places they've fought in over the last years?

References:
1. Official summary of the bill:
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s2040/summary
2. Official text:
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s2040/text

Obama vetoes 9/11 bill, likely setting up first congressional override of his presidency
The president had until midnight Friday to make good on his veto threat.

17 thoughts on “JASTA: Is the US more authoritative than an international court?

  1. Sophie Wrobel

    +Per Siden No, it is not. The law explicitly says international acts of terror, which is defined in the USC as actions and acts that take place outside of US soil contributing to terrorism.

    That said, the question is how to get the defendant to show up in US courts… "the rest of the world" simply isn't US jurisdiction. Saudi Arabia might be a tough call, because they probably wouldn't comply with an extradition order to send themselves to a US court for a US domestic trial, but other countries such as a number of EU member nations have shown themselves more than willing in the past to comply with US extradition orders (as +Randy Resnick already pointed out).

    In short, I think there's a good chance that it all may may turn into a dirty game of push-and-shove politics instead of justice at the end of the day.

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  2. Per Siden

    Apparently the law is written to be limited to terrorist attacks against US targets on US soil only. I cannot fathom how it could be feasible even so. If another country passes a similar bill, and the US government is charged with crimes in that country, will they honor that court? I can't how this law could possibly work.

    Cases such as these ought to be handled in the ICC and ICJ, not in domestic courts. More countries ought to recognize these bodies.

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  3. Michael-Forest M.

    A couple points:
    1. The law was passed with unanimous bipartisan support. Even the veto override only had a single vote against in the senate. The amazing thing is that Obama actually vetoed it.

    2. A great many Americans feel the way you do. Unfortunately, they don't seem to end up in power.

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  4. Kieron Taylor

    Italy tried to pull this stunt against Germany. It availed them nothing. ICJ Smackdown over sovereignty. Domestic court within a state has no power over another state.

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  5. Titan ThinkTank

    Such policies will only lead to more massive terrorists attacks due to more powerful nations being pissed off and talking behind their backs, i just hope USA gets destroyed without more wars outside it.

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  6. Earl Matthews

    +Sophie Wrobel "Is there any way to stop the madness?"
    Change American foreign policy (and domestic social policy) to be less "us vs them".
    America treats people like monsters. Then we wonder, like a child "Why do people hate us so much?".
    It would be nice to try not blowing people up, just to see if the number of people who hate America changed.

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  7. Sophie Wrobel

    +Randy Resnick Oh, but you clearly look like a suspicious terrorist, don't you? I mean, who would go to the grocery store before the security guard shows up for work?

    I think there's a growing divide between US mentality and the rest of the world, namely 'If you don't have anything to hide, you shouldn't be afraid and surveillance is okay' and 'You shouldn't be subject to surveillance unless there is at least reason to believe that you did something wrong'. Not to mention that research shows that constant surveillance causes people to modify their behavior and can directly be a cause of insanity.

    And for your interest: Israel release a statement some years ago about the laughable state of airport security in the rest of the world (which has been augmented since then): anyone can roll a suitcase with a bomb into the airport 'check-in' hall, and if they did set it up to detonate and walk away, by the time someone found and report the bomb, and rang the alarm to evacuate the airport, and all the passengers single-filed out of the secure zones, the bomb could have long since exploded. They consider their solution to be superior: miles before arriving at the airport, passengers are subject to checkpoint controls where officers trained in psychology should pull suspects off to investigate who do weird things when you ask them simple questions. I don't have enough airport bomb discovery response time statistics available to verify, but I think you get the point: the augmented security checks may actually turn out to be more detrimental to public safety if something actually happened than anything else.

    I also love the weird exceptions to the rules: most people know that you aren't allowed to carry water beyond the security checkpoint at airports. But if you have a baby traveling with you, it's okay to take a liter or two of fluids (could be anything, water, milk, or even some random liquid formula).

    Is there any way to stop the madness?

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  8. Randy Resnick

    +Sophie Wrobel funny thing happened to me this morning. I went into a Paris shopping mall. Only the grocery chain store was open. I walked in the door without a challenge. 30 minutes later I was stopped and vaguely searched at that same door. (Open jacket, show that the bulge in my pocket was an apple, etc.) The point being, security theatre, which is constantly augmented, can't be very effective. Anyone could have planted a device the first time. They don't want to pay someone from the moment the door opens at 9. Even if they did, when I showed a paper bag with an apple-sized object, he didn't ask to see the apple, it could have been a grenade!
    Laws like the one you refer to are turning society into a minor dystopia long before its time. The threat of terror or even just wackos wanting attention is very real, but by its nature, it's nearly unstoppable. No one has a solution, so instead, keep making laws and threats, postering for an electorate.

    Reply

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