- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

A bill to provide federal compensation for families of victims of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa, opposed by the Bush administration, is now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Embassy Employee Compensation Act would allow victims' families to file claims with the federal Victims Compensation Fund on the same basis as families affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The bill passed in the House on May 21 by a 391-18 vote. President Bush is on record as opposing the measure, and has said that the administration is preparing a separate system to compensate victims of terrorism overseas.
Opponents to the bill, including Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, have argued that it would create a precedent to open the September 11 fund to other terrorism victims. A spokesman for Mr. Flake said he voted against the bill because he wanted to first see the Bush administration's proposed compensation system.
But family members of the victims of the Aug. 7, 1998, embassy bombings say they deserve to be included among the victims of September 11.
The bombings by members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network killed 213 persons in Nairobi, Kenya, and 11 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A total of some 5,000 were injured in the two blasts. Among the dead were 12 Americans.
Edith Bartley, whose father and brother died in the Kenya bombing, said the families should be included in the fund because both attacks occurred on soil considered American and at the hands of al Qaeda.
She said the families have worked the last four years to obtain compensation, but said their attempts were largely ignored by the government.
"Sadly, it took September 11 and the loss of so many lives to get the administration and Congress to pay attention to issues of security, terrorism and victims," Miss Bartley said. "We thought this would be a good opportunity to say 'Remember us? We would like to be included, too.'"
Other family members fighting to secure compensation include Howard Kavaler, who survived the attack in Nairobi but lost his wife. Mr. Kavaler has since retired from the Foreign Service and works part time in the State Department in order to spend more time with his two young daughters.
Attempts to receive compensation were fueled by a report by two accountability review boards investigating the 1998 embassy bombings. That report indicated poor security and a lack of communication between agencies may have contributed to the bombings, Miss Bartley and Mr. Kavaler said.
In a 1999 letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, the review boards noted the "inadequacy of resources to provide security against terrorist attacks" and the "relative low priority accorded security concerns throughout the U.S. government by the department, other agencies in general, and on the part of many employees both in Washington and in the field."
All families of the victims of the 1998 embassy bombings will file for compensation if the bill passes, Miss Bartley said.
Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, announced they would work to ensure the legislation also provides compensation for families of the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the recent anthrax attacks before the Senate acts on the bill.
But Miss Bartley said she fears adding groups to the bill could slow the process.
"If they can come to an agreement without hindering passage, that's great," she said. "But this shouldn't be used as a mechanism that will end up stalling things."


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