Making Terrorists Pay

People walk around the fishing village of Naknek, Alaska, AP

He is fighting back from the shadows against groups that thrive in the shadows. One man known for the record as John Doe has filed a lawsuit against Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq. He's asking for $210 million.

"I want to make sure they don't have access to more funds to hurt more Americans, to kill more people," he said.

CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports John Doe is one of the first people to sue America's newest enemies in America's own courts. He is afraid to be identified because he is afraid of retribution — his wife was killed in the World Trade Center.

"We were married for 20 years. She was my life," he recalled.

The Lawsuit
Click here to read the $210 million lawsuit against Osama bin laden, Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq.
After Sept. 11, legal attention has focused on limited payouts from the Victim's Compensation Fund, but attorneys like Lee Kreindler believe much more money is available from terrorist organizations and nations that sponsor them.

"I want to sue whoever I can get the most amount of money from," he said.

Kriendler filed suit against Libya on behalf of victims of the crash of flight Pan Am 103. Thirteen years later the case is still in court.

"We expect to win that case against Libya and we expect the damages to be huge," said Kriendler.

Suing terrorists and winning is tough enough, but the fight really begins when it's time to collect the money. It's not that the money isn't available, it's that the people controlling it are unwilling to pay up. And who are those people? The U.S. government.

"We have a judgment suitable for framing. But we have not been paid," said Jim Cooper Hill, a Texas attorney.

Cooper Hill represents four men held hostage by Iraq in the early '90s. The men had accidentally crossed over the Iraqi border.

"Chad Hall was told as he stood naked before the Iraqi soldiers questioning him that if he didn't confess they would wire his testicles and electrocute him," he said.

Cooper Hill sued Iraq and won $19 million last May. Under the law the money could have been paid out of Iraqi assets frozen by the U.S. government. Washington controls more than a billion dollars of Iraqi money.

"The statute says the Secretaries of State and Treasur should make every effort to locate the assets, identify them and see that judgments are satisfied. They are just not doing that," complained Cooper Hill.

So Cooper Hill has sued the government to force its cooperation. Only rarely has Washington helped Americans collect from frozen terrorist accounts. Terry Anderson, one of the hostages held in Lebanon, had to ask Congress to pass a special law to get his $41 million — and that took 10 years.

"I know it can be a long hard fight," said John Doe.

He could really have two fights ahead of him: one, he has to convince a court he deserves the terrorist money and another, to convince the U.S. government to help him collect it.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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