Episode 747: The Man Who Sued Iran : Planet Money When Steve Flatow's daughter was killed in a terror attack, he wanted someone to pay. His target was the Iranian government. His quest would pit him against both Iran and the White House.

Episode 747: The Man Who Sued Iran

Episode 747: The Man Who Sued Iran

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Bill O'Leary/Washington Post/Getty Images
Steve Flatow, left, and Sen. Frank Lautenburg (D-NJ) held a press conference on the steps of the U.S. District courthouse to announce a judgement in the lawsuit brought by the family of Alisa Flatow.
Bill O'Leary/Washington Post/Getty Images

Steve Flatow's daughter, twenty-year-old Alisa Flatow, was studying abroad in Israel. One day she was on a bus in the Gaza Strip, and a suicide bomber blew the bus up. Alisa died in the attack.

The bomber was part of a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. State Department believed was funded by Iran. Flatow decided to sue Iran for monetary damages. But under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, U.S. citizens couldn't sue countries.

That didn't stop Flatow. He called up Steve Perles, an international reparations lawyer. The two knocked on hundreds of doors on Capitol Hill, pitching the idea that if Flatow won his suit, and won it big, maybe they could make it too expensive for Iran to sponsor terror groups.

It worked. And in 1996, President Bill Clinton changed the law to say that an Americans could sue certain countries in terrorism cases.

So they sued.

Today on the show, how Steve Flatow's quest for justice put him up against both Iran and his own government--and how he shook up assumptions about international diplomacy.

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