"It's up to us, and I think we can do it,"
August 15, 2002 10:30 AM   Subscribe

"It's up to us, and I think we can do it," she said. "It's up to us to bankrupt the terrorists and those who finance them so they will never again have the resources to commit such atrocities against the American people as we experienced on September 11."
posted by jcterminal (45 comments total)
too bad this just won't work.

won't find an impartial american jury, they parties they are sueing don't recognize american law, and really, even if they did win, how the hell would they collect? letters and phone calls from collections?
posted by jcterminal at 10:32 AM on August 15, 2002

posted by agregoli at 10:37 AM on August 15, 2002

What jc said is actually why I think I'm going to follow this. I'm curious as to what the procedures are. And what if they "win" - what will happen then? It'll be interesting regardless.
posted by kavasa at 10:43 AM on August 15, 2002

Hmmm. I wonder if they could pursue US corporations that had dealings with these foreign entities. If a link could be shown that the US corporations wheeled and dealed when they knew these people were engaged in unlawful activities, wouldn't that open them up to RICO lawsuits?

US companies like Halliburton?
posted by kablam at 10:44 AM on August 15, 2002

On reading the post, for a second there I thought they were cutting the Pentagon budget.
posted by troybob at 10:47 AM on August 15, 2002

this will be an interesting case to follow, no doubt. What jury in the United States WON'T find the defendants guilty? No doubt they will win-but what happens next? A subpoena stating, "Dear bin Laden Enterprises, Inc. We apologize for the inconvenience, but by order of the 3rd District Court of Virgina you are hereby requested to hand over all assets, funds, properties, et al. by 31 December 2002. Your cooperation in this matter will be greatly appreciated."

All sarcasm aside, I will be interested to see what procedures, precedents, and methods will be used not only in court-but assuming a victory, in the collection of funds.

Crazier things have happened-Though it took more than a decade, Libya ended up compensating victims from the Lockerbie disaster.
posted by tgrundke at 10:48 AM on August 15, 2002

Calling themselves Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, the plaintiffs are suing seven international banks; eight Islamic foundations, charities and their subsidiaries; individual terrorist financiers; the Saudi bin Laden Group; three Saudi princes; and the government of Sudan for allegedly bankrolling the terrorist al Qaeda network, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

It's not like they have to collect any potential judgment from the terrorists themselves. The lawsuit has been filed against significant, stable, international organizations and individuals. On top of that, many of these groups have sizeable assets in the United States which could be frozen pursuant to the judgment in this case, if such an order is issued by the judge. Look at the article; one of the lawyers involved helped negotiate a nearly $3 billion settlement with the Libyan government after the bombing of Pan Am 103.

I'm more hopeful that rather than, or perhaps in addition to, generating a sizeable judgment, this lawsuit will raise awareness in the United States of the role the Saudis have played in international terrorism.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:49 AM on August 15, 2002

About the whole "just not working" thing, that may or may not be the case. I'm sure many of these companies do business (if only a small amount) in the US or other countries with extradition treaties with the US. This means that if they were found guilty then they would either have to cease doing business in these countries (which seems more likely to me) or pay up. I think this deserves an IANAL though.

That being said, I think this is a great idea in principle, but they may have gone a little overboard in the selection of their targets. For example: In my city, a leader from a muslim charity was taken into custody for some time because of alleged links to terrorist activity. I also know his son personally, and have spoke with his father multiple times. Although they were both very into their religion, there is absolutely know way in hell that his father would have supported terrorist attacks in any way. Yet he was detained for over a month on no evidence whatsoever, all because he led a muslim charity.

The whole impartial jury thing is really a concern to me... For all I know my friend's father's organization could be a defendant in this case, and seeing as they were pretty happy to hold him without trial, I think that the plaintiffs could definitely convince at least some (majority only as this is a civil case) of the average americans to convict on shaky evidence. However, if they are guilty and given a fair, racism-free trial, then I have no remorse... Funding terrorists is just as bad as actually committing the act itself.
posted by statusquo at 10:57 AM on August 15, 2002

kablam: RICO requires that the accused "conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise's affairs, through a pattern of racketeering activity." It's unlikely that American companies, like Halliburton, were participating in the racketeering activities of the terrorist-funding organizations, assuming that funding terrorists itself is an act of racketeering.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2002

"The attorneys and investigators were able to obtain, through French intelligence, the translation of a secretly recorded meeting between representatives of bin Laden and three Saudi princes in which they sought to pay him hush money to keep him from attacking their enterprises in Saudi Arabia, Motley said. "

Now that's interesting. I wonder if the public will ever get to see the transcript of that meeting.

The other night Donahue interviewed author Jean Charles Brisard, who is participating in the lawsuit, and Kristen Breitweiser, one of the widows from 9/11. Here is the transcript. I found the interview with Breitweiser especially moving.
posted by homunculus at 11:05 AM on August 15, 2002

RICO also requires that the person who is injured by racketeering activity suffers an injury to their business or property. Getting killed is a personal injury claim -- not covered under the Act.
posted by stvc15 at 11:06 AM on August 15, 2002

If you would have read the article, you would have seen:

Co-lead counsel for the lawsuit is attorney Allen Gerson, one of the attorneys who negotiated a $2.7 billion settlement between the Libyan government and families of 270 people killed when Pam Am Flight 103 was blown up over Scotland in 1988.

So it is possible to collect on suits like this.
posted by betaray at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2002

*dr evil impression*One TRILLION dollarrrsss...*/dr evil*
posted by SpecialK at 11:29 AM on August 15, 2002

Right on! Hit them were it hurts!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:59 AM on August 15, 2002

betaray, if you would have read my comment you would have seen that I was writing about RICO. The Lockerbie settlement offer is more of a political act meant to persuade the state dept. into lifting sanctions. More importantly, why is Gadhaffi only a colonel? Aren't all despots supposed to be Generals?
posted by stvc15 at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2002

They could have picked a better name, such as Families United against Companies Known by Osama's Family and Friends.

Okay, so it's a stretch, but man am I bored.
posted by madprops at 12:21 PM on August 15, 2002

Why don't they sue the US Government for decades of policy that created the situation?
posted by tankboy at 12:36 PM on August 15, 2002

Did I hear Cheney in this thread? Sounded like it came from somewhere in the direction of specialk. :)
posted by nofundy at 12:36 PM on August 15, 2002

Maybe I am mistaken, but is it not true that assets that could be tied directly to Bin Laden's network were frozen by the US government as some it's first 'war on terrorism' initiatives? Are there direct links ($1 trillion large) that the US government missed?

I understood that Bin Laden's family disowned him years ago, and do not have direct ties with him. Are they now responsible for his actions? International banks?

Is this another example of a civil case accomplishing what the federal government could not? (think OJ)

Or is this possibly another witchhunt supervised by ill-intentioned and greed-infested lawyers preying on victim's hopes and incredible national sympathy..?

I wonder what the lawyers cut of the settlement is.. 40%?
posted by jazzkat11 at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2002

This is a welcome legal initiative. There are enough Saudi assets in the United States to at least exert some pressure, and create some very bad PR for certain interests. Good luck!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:39 PM on August 15, 2002

This is a welcome legal initiative.

You're billing for it, I presume.

Bankrupt Terrorists? Families United To Enrich Lawyers, more like. 'I see; I sue.' So perhaps even better: Lawyers United In The Trough.
posted by riviera at 3:20 PM on August 15, 2002

Strangely, most headlines (like the one I just heard on NPR) say "seeking more than $1 trillion", but the CNN story says one hundred sixteen trillion. A bit reminiscent of Rubik's cube being marketed as having more than 1 million combinations ... when the real number was closer to 3 billion. Heh -- I see even one of the lawyers says "hundreds of billions" ... they're certainly in a new stratospheric range here.

The key thing I see coming out of this is legal discovery against those Saudi princes. They may also find "unofficial" support from some bin Laden relatives (there are enough of them that it's likely some are sympathetic). This will put pressure on them that the government can't, or won't. Riyadh in particular is quite desperate to keep its image up, and it will be interesting to see how they react to this. Sudan, of course, is poor, has just agreed to a peace deal in its civil war, and is cooperating. But back in the day they gave much more direct support to al Qaeda, until the price became too high. Hard to say how that would figure into later actions taken.
posted by dhartung at 3:42 PM on August 15, 2002

man, if this works forget invading Iraq, let's just send in our lawyers and Saddam won't have enough money left to strangle a peasant!
posted by NGnerd at 4:39 PM on August 15, 2002

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but CNN have quietly updated that story, from $1 trillion to $116 trillion.


$116 trillion?
posted by influx at 4:52 PM on August 15, 2002

Perhaps this sounds a little naive, and since this is my first post on Metafilter, I hope that you forgive me. I think we should follow the money trail. After all, before oil, how powerful were these countries really? We should put more money into r&d to substantially cut down on foreign oil imports. Hit them where it hurts...in the wallet.
posted by Beansidhe at 5:43 PM on August 15, 2002

Yes, I noticed the update myself.

To be honest, I do not have even a concept of how much money that is.

Were the families to be awarded that amount, even after a more than generous lawyer cut, each family would be worth many billions of dollars.
posted by jazzkat11 at 5:44 PM on August 15, 2002

I can't believe these families want to spend the next ten years going over and over and over what happened....this current administration will not cooperate at all if Saudis are involved, so how will they get the financial and other info they need to make a case and prosecute?
(I'm hoping the answer is not jazzkat's post)
posted by amberglow at 5:52 PM on August 15, 2002

Check thisout! From Buzzflash, but if true means they're up against Cheney himself!!!What should make us all feel insecure about our newfound homeland security is that Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, bought H.C. Price Company (now called Bredero-Shaw
http://www.bredero-shaw), a Texas-based oil company that supplies anticorrosion coatings for oil pipelines and is a joint partner of the Saudi Bin-Laden Group http://www.sbg.com.sa, a construction company that is owned by the Bin-Laden family and builds crude-oil pipelines.

Saudi Bin-Laden Group is the group the families are suing!
posted by amberglow at 6:10 PM on August 15, 2002

I can't believe these families want to spend the next ten years going over and over and over what happened.

Don't you think they'll be doing that anyway?
posted by ParisParamus at 6:15 PM on August 15, 2002

Paris, there is grieving, and then there is the search for vengeance--tying yourself up in years of legal battles (without hope of seeing the people responsible punished) really doesn't provide for closure and it certainly won't bring anyone back.
posted by amberglow at 6:21 PM on August 15, 2002

Lawyers: our most powerful weapon against terrorism :)
posted by quin at 7:19 PM on August 15, 2002

Yawn. Greedy spoiled brats looking to cash in on their significant others death.
posted by {savg*pncl} at 7:30 PM on August 15, 2002

I don't think it's so much about winning the moral victory, satisfaction of revenge or the settlement. It's more about pursuing evidence that the Bush administration and the CIA won't touch. This lawsuit gives a small group of people the mandate to pursue evidence of a crime.

It's really legal vigilantism.

But still, I applaud it. Because they recognise that government agencies very often wear political handcuffs.
posted by timyang at 8:18 PM on August 15, 2002

If only some of you were as open minded to the idea of reparations in the US as this. If only.

I'd make a separate post about this if I could, but I haven't posted enough comments yet.?
posted by Slimemonster at 8:34 PM on August 15, 2002

Where'd that question mark come from?h
posted by Slimemonster at 8:35 PM on August 15, 2002

One comment closer Slimemonster.

This is stupid, ill conceived and embarrassing. Isn't the reason we were attacked at all because for decades the US has demonstrated that the people of the middle east are obstacles to corporate wealth with its official apathetic lip-servicing policies concerning the conditions of the vast poor and uneducated people of these far away and exotic lands? I mean, you don't even need to play Sim City to find that there is only so much wealth you can extract out of the poor before they explode, self-destruct, fall prey to the propaganda of rich oil tycoons, who also happen to be well suited for the job as ultra-deft mullah.

If a win for the plaintiffs are in the cards and the world survives this juggernaut in the madness of foreverwar, the precedent will be set for the Iraqi people to bring a 116 ZILLION(!!!) dollar lawsuit against the US. I mean justice is justice right? And then we'd of course have to welcome the Malaysians to the world of democratic justice. Oh, of course the Filipinos too. And then there are the Indonesians. Can't leave out the Mexicans and Guatemalans either. Shit, that just might embolden all of Central and South America. Oh well. Like I said. Justice is justice.

I genuinely hope, we all have our day in court.
posted by crasspastor at 9:17 PM on August 15, 2002

To give anyone an idea of how much 116 trillion dollars is, the US RGDP (real Gross Domestic Product, or total amount of goods and services produced in a country in one year, based on a fixed year's price index) for 2001 was about 9.2 trillion dollars (about 173 times what Bill Gates is currently worth according to the Bill Gates Personal Wealth Clock). The approximate GDP of Saudi Arabia is 232 billion dollars. The approximate net worth of the bin Laden family is about 5 billion dollars. So 116 trillion dollars is about 12 times what the US produced in goods and services in 2001, or about 2184 times what Bill Gates is currently worth, or about 40 times Saudi Arabia's GDP, or about 1843 times what the bin Laden family is estimated to be worth.

I hope this case is at least successful at doing something that the US government won't do- holding Saudi Arabia partially responsible for international terrorism and fomenting or at least tolerating murderous religious fundamentalism as a way to protect their ass(ets).

On preview: reparations for what? If you're talking about the misguided reparations movement for 17th and 18th century slavery, it's just not comparable. All these banks, institutions , and individuals directly responsible for 9/11 and other international mayhem are still alive and mostly still very rich and functional. I don't think this group of first-hand victims suing first-hand accomplices compares.
posted by evanizer at 9:18 PM on August 15, 2002

2184 times what Bill Gates is currently worth

Do have any idea what $2184 dollars would do for these folks?

Stretch out the neck of your shirt evanizer and peer down at the tag. Where was it made? Where did you buy it at? When those people sew your shirt (my shirt), where do you think they think that shirt is going to be shipped to? Do you believe those people are happy? A lawsuit as broadwinded as the lawsuit in question could be applied to anyone or any entity in and of or encomapssing all of America. If we're to extend the logic of the terror-lawsuit that far of course. And that's just the economically forced hard-labor. What else? The Iraqi embargo? I know its been deconstructed and pooh-poohed ample times by conservative apologists (millions of Iraqi babies and children dead). But who do the PEOPLE who endure that blame for their misery? Isn't that the point of the lawsuit in question? Justice, correct? Well why doesn't it apply everywhere that America beneficently weilds its "freedom defending" force? It doesn't, because it's a lie.
posted by crasspastor at 10:08 PM on August 15, 2002

Not happening. Watch for Bush to step on this lawsuit and end it for good.
posted by Ptrin at 10:16 PM on August 15, 2002

And then again. Why should Bush end the lawsuit for good? We all have the right to sue. This has nothing to do with Bush.

Maybe Bush can eventually sue the whole world because he makes them vomit and he hates that people vomit because of the very thought of him and then they write about why they were so nauseous the next day on their blog.
posted by crasspastor at 10:30 PM on August 15, 2002

Do you believe those people are happy?
I'm not happy...where's my money?

posted by goethean at 6:56 AM on August 16, 2002

Didn't the bin Laden family disown Osama many years ago? Even if a few bin Laden family members were sympathetic to Osama, taking down one of the largest construction companies in the world is going to hurt a lot of innocent people - and create a lot more of the bin Ladens that we *don't* like. I think this suit needs to be *way* more surgically precise.
posted by laz-e-boy at 7:18 AM on August 16, 2002

You slipped up on the calculator, evanizer. Using your Saudi GDP figure of $232bn and Bin Laden family fortune of $5bn, $116 trillion is 500 times the former and 23,200 times the latter.

Suing for three times the GDP of the entire world is a tad optimistic.
posted by rory at 7:38 AM on August 16, 2002

taking down one of the largest construction companies in the world is going to hurt a lot of innocent people

As any fan of Clerks knows.
posted by rory at 7:51 AM on August 16, 2002

On preview: reparations for what? If you're talking about the misguided reparations movement for 17th and 18th century slavery, it's just not comparable. All these banks, institutions , and individuals directly responsible for 9/11 and other internatio nal mayhem are still alive and mostly still very rich and functional. I don't think this group of first-hand victims suing first-hand accomplices compares.

Slavery. Sharecropping. Housing Covenants. Blockbusting. Redlining. The notion of "reverse racism."

Um it sure does compare. Slavery and the subsequent laws passed in order to separate white indentured servants and black slaves have contributed to a value of white skin in the US that is as strong as ever today. I'll post about it soon, cause I don't think anybody would read this way down on the bottom.

Reparations isn't about a check for every black person in the US. It's about an acknowledgement of that holocaust and it's lasting effects on today.

"I may be poor but at least I'm not a-"

I know you can finish that line. And no that's not just something you think poor, uneducated, bigoted white people say. There's a lot of truth behind that statement.e
posted by Slimemonster at 3:48 PM on August 17, 2002

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