This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Iran’s central bank must pay nearly $2 billion to families of 241 service members killed in the Iran-sponsored 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut.
The plaintiffs sought to collect frozen funds from Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, relying on a 2012 federal law, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act, that made the task easier by specifying assets of the bank that could satisfy the plaintiffs’ judgments. The law was quite specific, naming a single, pending consolidated case by caption and docket number.
Notorious RBG wrote the decision, “saying Congress has the power to alter legal standards in existing cases.”
Also this week, the CIA announced that it has “secured funds to begin paying out death benefits of up to $400,000” to families “who are survivors of unmarried and childless federal employees or contractors killed in acts of terrorism overseas.” Apparently, “[t]he measure circumvents a 1941 law that requires overseas contractors — including those working for the C.I.A. — to carry disability and life insurance but pays out death benefits only to those with surviving spouses or children.”
And on top of all that, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have introduced legislation to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia by preventing countries “accused of having terrorist ties from invoking their sovereign immunity in federal court.”
Not that the bill is going anywhere anytime soon, however. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House have expressed various degrees of “caution” about it, and right now, “it has been stalled in the Senate by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, an original co-sponsor … as he tries to resolve concerns about late changes made to it.”
But all this activity to help terror victims, including U.S. soldiers, stands in stark contrast to this nation’s treatment active duty service members who suffer any other kind of harm.
As we’ve noted on this blog many times the Feres Doctrine, a 60-year-old Supreme Court-created policy (talk about legislating from the bench) bars U.S. military personnel from suing the government for personal injuries suffered while they are in the armed forces. It has extinguished the legal rights of everyone from sexual assault victims to those injured by gross medical malpractice in military hospitals. Courts have gone so far as to use Feres to bar compensation to a child who suffered a catastrophic birth injury due to malpractice - simply because her mother was an Air Force captain.
The Supreme Court created this injustice and Congress has refused to fix it. Forget terror abroad. This is a true tragedy of our own making.