Resource on combating terrorists by draining their assets held in banks

Work by Fairfield University's Debra Strauss cited by federal judges

debra StraussThe prominent terrorism research of Debra M. Strauss, J.D., associate professor of business law at Fairfield University's Charles F. Dolan School of Business, may soon be applied to a recent initiative against the terrorist organization ISIS. President Obama announced that the United States would go about destroying ISIS with airstrikes, as well as by choking its financial resources. "One of the key objectives for American authorities will be to trace the funding of this terrorist organization through assets and financing via banks and other groups, including allegedly ‘charitable' organizations,' " said Dr. Strauss. Her financial approach to combating terrorism by utilizing civil lawsuits has been implemented against other terrorist groups and state sponsors of terrorism. "Assets can be seized by the United States government and pursued by victims of terrorism and their families with the dual goals of compensating the victims and drying up the funding for future terrorist acts. Tracing the financial trail is also a way to locate and identify terrorists such as ISIS as another means of defeating them." This tactic was reportedly employed in late September when the Treasury Department designated 11 individuals and one charity as supporters of terrorism, including eight men who allegedly have aided ISIS and another radical group in Syria. This enables the U.S. to freeze their financial assets. 

For perspectives on how the legal system is used to thwart terrorism, consider as a resource Dr. Strauss, a graduate of Yale Law School who teaches courses at the Dolan School of Business in International Law, and Business Law and Ethics. Characterizing civil suits as a "non-military approach," she is a proponent of the use of these suits by victims against terrorist groups and state-sponsors of international terrorism, reasoning that draining terrorists financially is an avenue for thwarting their criminal activities. An article written by Dr. Strauss was cited numerous times by a federal judge in his ruling on the case, ‘In re Islamic Republic of Iran Terrorism Litigation,' and has had significant implications for compensating the victims of terrorist acts and their families in other cases against Iran. Her work has also been instrumental both in helping plaintiffs pursue these types of claims and in the development of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA), Section 1083 (codified as 28 U.S.C. § 1605A). Another of Dr. Strauss's articles was cited in a landmark federal case that allowed a civil lawsuit against Libya and Libyan officers by victims of the terrorist act that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726,

Posted on November 5, 2014

Vol. 47, No. 108

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