Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Eric H. Singer

First Page



The cases involving Orlando Letelier and Michael Townley raise a number of questions about extradition and state-sponsored terrorism. As shown by the United States' failure to obtain the three Chilean requestees (and Argentina's failure to obtain Townley), extradition is an unreliable and thus inadequate means to cope with state-sponsored terrorism. To deter such conduct may call for greater inventiveness in identifying and implementing effective sanctions. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) seemingly offers an alternative to extradition and a remedy for acts of state-sponsored terrorism under its noncommercial torts exception. This remedy, however, is uncertain in light of recent court decisions. The executive and Congress should reexamine the FSIA regarding political terrorism. (Additionally, because lawyers sought to block Michael Townley's extradition to Argentina in part on "humanitarian" grounds, the "humanitarian exception" to extradition is considered. This Note argues that legislating such an exception is undesirable.)