Since 9/11, private litigants have been important players in the “fight” against terrorism. Using several federal tort statutes, these plaintiffs have sued foreign states as well as other parties, like non-governmental charities, financial institutions, and social media companies, for terrorism- related activities. While these private suits are meant to address injuries suffered by plaintiffs or their loved ones, they often reinforce and reflect the U.S. government’s terrorism-related policies, including the racial and religious discrimination endemic to them. Indeed, much like the U.S. government’s criminal prosecutions for terrorism-related activities, private terrorism suits disproportionately implicate Muslim and/or Arab individuals and entities while reinforcing the belief that those groups are predisposed to engage in or support terrorism.
This short Article provides a brief overview of the world of private terrorism litigation. It begins by describing the various federal tort statutes on terrorism—including their fraught relationship with foundational tort law norms. It explains the connection between those laws and the U.S. government’s terrorism prosecutions, as well as its other terrorism-related priorities. It ends by demonstrating how private terrorism suits reinforce discrimination and prejudice against Arabs and Muslims that are reflected in criminal terrorism prosecutions. In focusing on private terrorism litigation, this Article highlights how private parties are furthering the government’s counterterrorism work, as well as how private terrorism suits reinforce the state’s endemic discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in the counterterrorism realm.
27 Mich. J. Race & L. 203 (2021)