[JURIST] The Bush administration has asked Congress to shield Libya [JURIST news archive] from a measure in the newly-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 [HR 4986 materials; JURIST report] that would allow victims of state-sponsored terrorism to sue for that country's assets held in the US. The military spending law, signed by US President George W. Bush [Specter press release] in January with bipartisan support, contains a provision – Section 1083 – which allows private lawsuits against countries designated by the US as a state sponsor of terror. Bush rejected a previous version [press release] that made the provision applicable to Iraq, but ultimately signed the law after it was updated to allow a presidential waiver [WH memorandum] to exempt that country. A March 18 letter from top administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to Congressional leaders seeks an additional waiver for Libya.
In 2004, Bush lifted decades-old sanctions [JURIST report] against Libya after it agreed to dismantle its weapons programs and to acknowledge its history of state-sanctioned terror, including an agreement to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 bombing of Pam Am flight 103 [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and to compensate the victims' families. In January, a US federal court ruled that the Libyan government and six Libyan officials should pay more than $6 billion in damages [plaintiff press release; JURIST report] to families of seven Americans who died in the 1989 bombing of French passenger jet UTA Flight 772 [BBC backgrounder], having previously found that Libya was responsible for the bombing. Proponents of the National Defense Authorization Act provision argue that allowing seizure of Libyan assets in the US will permit just compensation to terror victims. AP has more