Terrorism

Pursuant to 6 USCS § 101, the term “terrorism” means any activity that involves an act which is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive to critical infrastructure or key resources; and is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States and appears to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.

Generally, terrorism can be of two types: Domestic terrorism and International terrorism.  Domestic terrorism is one that occurs primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, such as terrorism that is carried out against one’s own government or fellow citizens.  International terrorism refers to terrorism which occurs primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or that transcends national boundaries by the means in which it is carried out, the people it is intended to intimidate, or the place where the perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act specifically allows an award of punitive damages for personal injury or death resulting from an act of state-sponsored terrorism.  The factors that are considered in the analysis of whether to award punitive damages and how substantial an award should be include: the nature and extent of harm to the plaintiffs that the defendant caused or intended to cause; the need for deterrence; and the wealth of the defendant.  Further, the purpose of punitive damages is twofold: to punish those who engage in outrageous conduct and to deter others from similar conduct in the future[i].

On October 26, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was enacted by the United States Government and was signed into law by President George W. Bush soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York city and the Pentagon.  The official title of the USA PATRIOT Act is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001.”  The purpose of the USA PATRIOT Act is to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and other purposes.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security as an executive department of the federal government. The events of September 11, 2001 highlighted the need to enhance the overall security of the U.S. food supply.  As part of the nation’s response, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act/BTA).

The Act includes a number of provisions designed to improve the food safety efforts of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in cooperation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including new authority to protect the food supply against terrorist acts and other threats.

On November 26, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (the “Act”).  The Act, which takes immediate effect, serves as a financial backstop, enabling commercial insurers to provide affordable terrorism coverage to policyholders. It is expected to benefit businesses that were unable to obtain terrorism coverage after September 11, 2001.

The Act renders all existing policy terrorism exclusions null and void, and requires all property and casualty insurers to offer policyholders terrorism insurance for two years (which, at the Treasury Secretary’s discretion may be extended an additional year).  The terrorism coverage offered must not “materially differ from the terms, amounts, and other coverage limitations applicable to losses arising from events other than acts of terrorism.” When offered, the terrorism coverage premium and the existence of the federal backstop must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed to policyholders.  Terrorism insurance refers to insurance that indemnifies against losses sustained because of an act of terrorism.  Terrorism insurance, in the mid-1980s, terrorism insurance was offered to individuals, originally as a form of travel insurance that provided compensation for terrorism-related cancellations or changes in itinerary when traveling to or in certain countries.

Any national of the United States injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of an act of international terrorism, or his or her estate, survivors, or heirs, may sue therefore in any appropriate district court of the United States and will recover threefold the damages s/he sustains and the cost of the suit, including attorney’s fees[ii]. Aiding and abetting an act of terrorism also gives rise to civil liability.  Killing, attempting or conspiring to kill, or causing serious bodily harm to a U.S. national while he or she is outside the United States is punishable by death or imprisonment[iii].

[i] Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, 580 F. Supp. 2d 53 (D.D.C. 2008).

[ii] 18 USCS § 2333.

[iii] 18 USCS § 2332.


Inside Terrorism