Watch CBSN Live

Court Sidesteps Presidential Waiver

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling allows a court case involving CBS News reporter Bob Simon, who alleged he was tortured in Iraq during the first Gulf War, to move forward despite a presidential waiver negotiated to protect Iraq from lawsuits.

In January, President Bush vetoed the Defense Authorization Bill objecting to a provision that would have allowed victims of terrorism to sue the Iraq government and other state sponsors of terrorism. He argued such lawsuits would hamper reconstruction efforts in Iraq, freeze the government’s assets in the United States and make the country liable for billions of dollars in claims.

Congress and the president negotiated a deal that allowed the provision to apply to state sponsors of terrorism, but would specifically exempt Iraq from lawsuits.

In this specific lawsuit, the Iraq government argued that the presidential waiver would protect Iraq and prevent the suit from proceeding.

But the appeals court on Tuesday rejected that claim, in part because the lawsuit was filed under an earlier version of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

At this point, the Iraq government has about two weeks to decide whether it wants a rehearing from the appeals court, according to Tony Onorato, an attorney for Steptoe and Johnson, representing the plaintiffs.

Foley Hoag attorney Lawrence Martin, representing the Iraq government, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

View CBS News In