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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York


Statement from Congressman Dan Donovan on Passage of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

September 9, 2016
Press Release

“Today, Congress again did right by the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families. I spoke to House leaders about why JASTA is so important, and I shared deeply emotional letters from FDNY widows. All these families want is the opportunity to have their cases heard, and I think they’ve earned it through their sacrifice. Thank you to Speaker Ryan, Chairman Goodlatte, and my colleagues for prioritizing American victims of terror above all else.”

-- Congressman Dan Donovan serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. Excerpts from letters written by 9/11 widows in support of JASTA are below.



Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act would permit victims of terror attacks on U.S. soil to sue foreign governments for complicity

Bill passed Senate; Donovan pushing for passage in House

Staten Island, NY – September 6, 2016….Lending a voice to those most impacted by the September 11th tragedy, Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) today shared personal appeals from 9/11 widows in support of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The legislation would permit American victims of terror attacks on U.S. soil to file suits against sovereign states complicit in the attack.

Congressman Donovan said, “That day was tough for all of us, but I can’t begin to fathom what these women have faced for the past 15 years. Through their tragedy, they’ve earned the right to loudly voice their opinions from a pulpit. That’s what I’m doing today as their representative – communicating their words to the world.”

In their letters, the widows tell the difficult and emotional stories of life without their husbands. They want a chance to make their case in court for why foreign governments should face justice for their alleged involvement in the attacks. More broadly, JASTA would send an important message to governments that support terror attacks: American victims will hold them accountable.

Donovan cosponsored JASTA and has pushed for passage since its introduction. JASTA passed the Senate unanimously in May. President Obama threatened to veto the bill over concerns foreign governments might retaliate by stripping the U.S. government of sovereign immunity. JASTA, though, has a very limited scope – it only opens foreign governments to liability for acts of terror committed on U.S. soil with state support.

Congressman Donovan continued, “I’ve communicated to my colleagues how big a priority this is for me and the families who lost loved ones. I’ll continue working to get it done.”

Excerpts from the letters are below and the full letters are attached.

Madeline Bergin, Widow of Firefighter John Bergin (FDNY-Rescue 5):

“He was my best friend, my protector…We built a beautiful life together and experienced all of our ‘firsts.’ We bought our first home and went on to have three beautiful children. We were his life and he was ours…How can you possible understand the magnitude of the loss we feel? My children were 6, 9 and 11 years old. He missed everything. He missed sacraments. He missed graduation. He will never walk his daughters down the aisle. Everything he treasured was violently taken away…As a mother and kindergarten teacher, I have always taught my children there are consequences for every action.”

Lori Mascali, Widow of Firefighter Joseph Mascali (FDNY-Rescue 5):

“The simple sound of a key in the door and a smile larger than life were a constant in our ordinary lives…He was 44 years old on 9/11. He was a real person: young, vibrant, and accomplished, married to his college sweetheart for 22 years and the father of two daughters and a son. No longer do I hear the sound of the key in the door on a Sunday morning…JASTA must be passed. Sovereign immunity should not be allowed as a shield of protection for persons or nations that fund terrorists and cause mass murder.”

Christine Bini, Widow of Firefighter Carl Bini (FDNY-Rescue 5):

“Please close your eyes and think of a cherished person in your life, possibly your husband, wife, partner…Now, think how you would feel if that person left their house on a beautiful crisp morning never to return…JASTA will give us the ability to stop those who choose to support extremist terrorism. Pass JASTA so that my husband’s life and the 2,976 precious lives that were obliterated on September 11, 2001 can receive their due justice.”

Rachel Harrell, Widow of Firefighter Harvey Harrell (FDNY-Rescue 5):

“It’s hard to process that it’s been 15 years since I’ve seen my husband and my daughters have had to live without their dad. We used to imagine seeing our daughters grow up and enjoying every moment we could. Suddenly I had to face all that without him…Don’t let terrorism be the legacy you leave to future generations of Americans.”

Lisa Palazzo, Widow of Firefighter Jeffrey Palazzo (FDNY-Rescue 5):

“September 9, 2001 is a day I will forever cherish. My husband, Jeff, came home from work, packed up our car, and, along with our two daughters Nicole and Samantha (4 years and 11 months), we headed to Sandy Hook Beach to enjoy one of the last few days of summer. Little did I know that would be our last day as a family…A little over 24 hours later, Jeff would be listed among the missing at the World Trade Center…Jeff loved and protected the United States by serving in a branch of the U.S. Military. He loved his country. My children should be able to feel the same love and protection by our government, in the same country for which their father fought hard to protect…Allow those countries who funded these terrorists to be held accountable.”

Joanne Modafferi, Widow of Battalion Chief Louis Modafferi (FDNY-Rescue 5):

“Christine was 18 years old on September 11th. The week before 9/11, Louie and I sent our daughter off to college. In 2005, Christine graduated from Monmouth University with a degree in Education. She was the first person to graduate college from both sides of our family – a very proud day. Her father was not there…On September 11, 2001, our world as we knew it changed forever. My family unit was changed forever. My husband was murdered as he saved so many innocent lives, and I want everyone involved to be held accountable.”