President Bill Clinton called it "an attack against America," but after Libyan agents planted a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103, killing 259 people in the air and 11 on the ground, America did not strike back. Instead, the grieving relatives of the victims did the unthinkable—as mere civilians-and tried to force Libya to pay for its crime. Lawyers told the families that they could never sue Libya in American courts, and they were right. This would require changing a bedrock principle of international law—a change that every government in the world feared and fought, including the United States itself.
Working virtually alone at first, Allan Gerson, a former diplomat and prosecutor of Nazi war criminals, took on the case and spent the next eight years on the families’ quest for justice. In this high-stakes game of international power politics and legal maneuvering, there were friendships, jobs, and reputations lost, but a precious principle—that of accountability under the law—was strengthened and preserved. Now Gerson and his co-author, Newsweek writer Jerry Adler, follow the threads of this extraordinary tale back to that deadly night over Lockerbie, Scotland—and forward into a new era of international justice, when terrorists will learn to fear the righteous retribution of their own victims.
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About the Author
Allan Gerson is currently Research Professor of International Relations at George Washington University. An authority on international law, he earned his doctorate at Yale University and has lectured and published widely in the field. During the Reagan administration, he served as counsel to United Nations ambassadors Jeane Kirkpatrick and Vernon Walters, and also held senior positions at the U.S. Department of Justice. Most recently, he served as Senior Fellow for International Law and Organizations at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Jerry Adler is a senior editor at Newsweek and the author of High Rise: How 1,000 Men and Women Worked Around the Clock for Five Years and Lost $200 Million Building a Skyscraper.