Debra Burlingame

Debra Burlingame to Paul Ryan: Why are you paling around with FALN terror apologist Luis Gutierrez?

Office of Cong. Paul Ryan
FAX: (202) 225-3393

April 23, 2013

Dear Congressman Ryan,

This message is to let you know how disappointing it was to see the news story dismissing the Boston bombings relevance to an effort to push through immigration reform without due consideration of the contents of the legislation. This dismissal was especially chilling given the fact that your immigration reform partner, Luis Gutierrez, was the chief spokesman for the political wing of the FALN terrorist organization, which carried out 146 bombings in a 25 year period, killing nine people and injuring and maiming dozens. [Ed. –See pdf file listing attacks, injuries, and damages.]

As I outlined in a lengthy piece for the Wall Street Journal, [Ed. – No pay wall.] Rep. Gutierrez was the chief advocate for the pardoning of 16 convicted FALN members, whose sentences ranged up to 90 years. These men and women were so dangerous, they were shackled for their trial and the presiding judge wore a gun under his robes because they had threatened to kill him in open court.

Rep. Gutierrez, against all evidence (including FBI undercover videotape of these people making bombs), called them “political prisoners” and threatened to marshal the Puerto Rican community against the Clintons, and Vice President Al Gore, then preparing a presidential run.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Mr. Gutierrez would not be alarmed by the fact that a wannabe terrorist under scrutiny by the FBI would be a candidate for U.S. citizenship. Terrorists have a history of defrauding the U.S. immigration system, gaming the political asylum process, and using the guest worker program to gain temporary access to the U.S., only to disappear into the population. Our overburdened system doesn’t bother to look for them. Several of the 1993 bombers came in through the Ag Jobs program. The 9/11 hijackers overstayed tourist visas. The Millennium bomber gamed the immigration system in Canada, and tried to enter the U.S. through Port Washington. He was only stopped because of an astute border agent.

Please be warned that Luis Gutierrez is NOT a good faith partner in this effort, and his history with the FALN is proof of that. The record is replete with his letters, and threats. I am including the piece I wrote for the Journal. All of my source documents were found in the Congressional investigation that took place in the wake of these pardons. Among the people I interviewed was the chief FBI agent, Rick Hahn, who hunted the FALN for years, as well as the NYC bomb squad officers who were permanently disabled in the bombings.

I have informed Joseph Connor, whose father was killed in the FALN Fraunces Tavern bombing in New York City, of your partnership with Mr. Gutierrez and your joint affirmation that the Boston bombings have no relevance to immigration legislation.

Very truly yours,

Debra Burlingame
Co-founder, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America

9/11 Families: Thomson Prison Purchase First Step to Bring Gitmo Detainees to U.S. Soil (Updated with DOJ filing)

Updated 6:05 PM EDT, Oct 2, 2012: The Department of Justice filed a notice of condemnation in U.S. District Court today to take possession of Thomson Prison. In part, the purpose of the acquisition reads as follows:

“… as well as to provide humane and secure confinement of individuals held under authority of any Act of Congress, and such other persons as in the opinion of the Attorney General of the United States are proper subjects for confinement in such institutions.”

The detainees at Guantanamo are being held under an Act of Congress, the Authorization to Use Military Force of 2001.

9/11 Families: Thomson Prison Purchase First Step to Bring Gitmo Detainees to U.S. Soil

Oct. 2, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America
Debra Burlingame media@911familiesforamerica.org

New York, NY, October, 2, 2012 — 9/11 families strongly object to the Obama administration’s plan to purchase Thomson Correctional Facility in Thomson, Illinois without Congressional approval. As stated in our July 27 letter, signed by more than 100 family members, to House Speaker John Boehner, 9/11 families believe this purchase is a back door effort to circumvent Congress and the will of the American people. Though Senator Dick Durbin and Attorney General Eric Holder have denied that the prison would be retrofitted to receive Guantanamo detainees, this would not be the first time the Department of Justice defied Congress in an effort to bring terrorists inside the Homeland.

Recent news that the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was led by a former Guantanamo detainee has underscored the dangerous profile of current detainees. They continue to pose a serious national security threat to the U.S., and should not be viewed as political pawns which can be moved from a safe, secure off-shore military installation to the heart of America in order to satisfy a small, left-wing political constituency. This is the same constituency that agitated for the release of prior detainees who have returned to the battlefield and who engage in anti-U.S. propaganda and terrorist recruiting.

Mr. Durbin admitted in today’s announcement that the purchase, made in open defiance of the House subcommittee which overseas federal prisons, was unprecedented. Coupled with President Obama’s 2011 signing statement on legislation barring funds to transfer Gitmo detainees to the U.S. — calling the legislation “an extreme and risky encroachment on the authority of the executive branch” — we have no confidence that the Obama administration will defer to the wishes of the American people and their elected representatives on the matter of Guantanamo.

This misappropriation of funds and flouting of Congressional authority goes to the very heart of the public’s distrust of the Obama administration and the ever-widening gap between what it says and what it does.

##

9/11 Families to Govs. Cuomo and Christie: the Port Authority’s conduct is a betrayal of those who died on 9/11

Click on the image.

The Honorable Chris Christie
Governor of New Jersey

The Honorable Andrew Cuomo
Governor of New York

June 27, 2012

Dear Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo:

Over the past several months, we have watched with growing concern as the National September 11 Memorial Museum has become the focus of a public dispute over funding. We are deeply disappointed that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the government agency over which you are jointly charged with oversight and control, has brought this important historic project to a standstill. As 9/11 family members who have been personally involved in the development of the Memorial and Museum, we refuse to stand by while the individuals you appointed — and whose actions you have the power to veto — allow this vital project to founder.

It is bitterly ironic and cynical in the extreme for the governors of New York and New Jersey — states which lost the most people on 9/11 — to express concern for the “long-term stability” of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation even as your appointees at the Port Authority seek to raid the foundation’s charitable coffers, essentially nullifying by several times over the amount of federal assistance for which you recently voiced your support.

The Memorial and Museum Foundation has raised more than $435 million in private donations from 900,000 mostly small donors. To date, the Foundation has achieved every fund raising goal, has met every contractual obligation, and has diligently worked in good faith to fulfill its dual obligations to the memory of our loved ones and to the public trust.

We believe that the Port Authority is now engaged in a dishonest and dishonorable effort to exploit the Foundation’s successful and disciplined efforts in order to offset its own reckless and irresponsible fiscal mismanagement. In short, the PA is seeking to use the public’s heart-felt support of the 9/11 memorial and museum as an easy source of revenue to help pay for its own oversized, under-budgeted, poorly-managed capital projects (see the $3.5 billion PATH station lobby, serving a mere 50,000 commuters, originally estimated to cost $1.8 billion; see also, the PA’s $25 billion capital plans — scaled back from $33 billion after public outrage.) That is despicable.

The Memorial Foundation has repeatedly refuted the Port Authority’s bald assertion that it is owed $157 million (the PA has inexplicably doubled the amount to $300 million in some press reports). Equally troubling are unsupported reports that the cost of the Memorial and Museum has soared to $1.4 billion. According to the foundation, none of this is true. It maintains that the Memorial and Museum costs owed to Port Authority were capped at $530 million in a properly executed 2006 contract. In that agreement, the Port Authority promised to deliver both the memorial and museum in 2009. It is the Port Authority which has delayed, dissembled and now disrupted this vitally important historic project.

Ten years ago, we witnessed devoted recovery workers clear 1.8 billion tons of twisted steel and concrete, putting their lives on hold, focusing only on what they perceived was their solemn duty to their fellow human beings. It took these honorable men and women nine months to bring order out of chaos.

It has now been nine months since the Port Authority sent workers off the site, creating new chaos out of order. The museum opening, slated for this September, has been indefinitely delayed. It will not open before 2013. Every month of Port Authority delay ensures that costs continue to rise.

Governor Christie and Governor Cuomo, the Port Authority’s conduct is a betrayal of those who died on 9/11. It is a betrayal of the thousands who risked everything to honor them, and it is a betrayal of the growing number of children for whom “9/11” is not a first-hand memory.

We ask that you direct the Port Authority to honor their contract with the Foundation, immediately restart construction of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, and finish the job.

Respectfully submitted,
[signatures after the jump]

Debra Burlingame: The 9/11 Memorial Museum Held Hostage

This is my op-ed as it appeared today in the Wall Street Journal, with additional photos and links added.

Debra Burlingame: The 9/11 Memorial Museum Held Hostage
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey demands more money from a charitable foundation before it will finish construction.
By DEBRA BURLINGAME

Wednesday, May 30 marks 10 years since the recovery operation at the World Trade Center site officially ended. On that day, the “Last Column,” a 37-foot, 58-ton section of structural steel, was draped with an American flag and escorted from the site by an honor guard in a solemn ceremony that left grown men weeping.

The beam had become a sacred totem after the remains of three New York City firefighters from Squad 41 were found near its base. Recovery workers covered it with memorials to the dead: photographs, decals and hand-scrawled tributes: “FDNY 343,” “PAPD 37,” “NYPD 23,” the numbers of those killed from the city’s first responder departments.

During the recovery operation, ironworkers, heavy-equipment operators and others in the construction trades removed 1.8 million tons of twisted steel and concrete, heaped seven stories high; the Last Column’s silent, enduring presence was a solemn tribute to the best of humanity. It was brought back to the World Trade Center site in August 2009, where it will be viewed by millions when the National September 11 Memorial Museum opens.


The ‘Last Column’ is removed from Ground Zero in a ceremony on May 2002. AP/Navy photo

Yet the museum opening, which was on track for Sept. 11, 2012, has now been delayed indefinitely. The final phase of construction ground to a halt last year in a public dispute over funding between the builder, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the nonprofit foundation that raised the money for the project. Lamentably, the two governors involved in this drama, New Jersey’s Chris Christie and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have done nothing to stop the Port Authority’s shameless gambit to squeeze more money out of a charity to which 900,000 mostly small donors have contributed.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is the bi-state agency that owns the land and lobbied heavily for the federally funded, multibillion-dollar job of rebuilding the 16-acre site. It claims that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation owes the agency $157 million more than the $530 million cost cap the agency itself agreed to in 2006. The Port Authority has not publicly stated any basis as to why it is owed additional money.

The Port Authority, run by a powerful group of politically connected bureaucrats, has long been accused of cronyism, mismanagement and waste. Last December, Gov. Christie announced that he was initiating a $2 million independent audit of the agency’s accounting. This came in the wake of a public outcry over the PA’s unilateral decision in August 2011 to raise bridge and tunnel tolls by 50%.

As Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) said, “There is something wrong when it costs $12 to cross a bridge in America.” He has joined Rep. Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.) in calling for federal oversight of the Authority “to make sure toll revenue is being used appropriately, and not going to fund excessive salaries or political patronage jobs.”

There are grounds for the charge. In November 2011, the Record newspaper in Bergen County, N.J., reported on the basis of public records that the Port Authority was giving 100 of its highest-paid employees secret bonuses totaling $2 million a year, beginning in 2008, at the height of the recession.

And in July, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a scathing report revealing that the Port Authority paid $85 million in overtime costs to 5,360 of its 6,900 employees in 2010. Three hundred and forty-seven employees received more than 50% of their base salary in overtime. According to the report, in 2009 the agency spent $52 million on overtime, and the basis for the top overtime earners could not be supported with written records.

Mr. DiNapoli also noted that the Port Authority authorized $4.38 billion in service contracts from 2006 to 2009. In a random sample of 75 of those contracts valued at $1.3 billion, according to the report, the agency lacked written support for 57 of them, valued at $1.18 billion. The Port Authority’s in-your-face response to Mr. DiNapoli’s report was that the overtime business model works just fine.

Perhaps the most trenchant description of the Port Authority’s method of doing business was outlined in an Oct. 19, 2011, op-ed in the New York Post by the PA’s former executive director (1995-97), George J. Marlin. In an open letter of advice to Gov. Cuomo’s newly appointed executive director, Patrick Foye, Mr. Marlin urged Mr. Foye to reject Port Authority bureaucrats’ cost estimates and construction timetables on new projects. He said they are deliberately lowballed to get approval.

Once construction starts and millions are spent, Mr. Marlin said, subsequent cost “overruns” are the norm. He called the PATH train terminal at Ground Zero a “perfect example of PA staff conniving.” Originally estimated to cost $1.8 billion in federal money, the 800,000 square foot terminal has ballooned to an astronomical $3.4 billion and rising.

In January of this year, Gov. Cuomo raised the specter of a lawsuit by the Port Authority against the Memorial & Museum Foundation regarding its $157 million claim. The governor surely knows that litigating the dispute in court could entail years of delay, jacking up construction costs in excess of the amount that the agency is demanding.

In the meantime, millions of Americans would have to wait while a government agency pursued its extortionate demand through the courts. And this from the same governor who issued a commemorative “We Remember” flag to be flown statewide for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Yet this is the Port Authority way: Abrogate the contract, shut down work, then make an offer the other side can’t refuse. The foundation’s CEO, Joe Daniels, wants to resolve the dispute in a manner that moves the project forward. The 2006 contract provides for fast-track mediation. But Mr. Daniels told me that a Port Authority board member warned him in a heated telephone conversation last October, “Go ahead and do it [request mediation] that way and we’ll see how long it takes to get your museum built.”

The Port Authority should be reminded that this isn’t Mr. Daniels’s museum. It belongs to the public, funded in part by federal tax dollars appropriated by Congress to show the world that America isn’t beaten. It belongs to private donors who have supported the project because they believe that future generations should be taught about this attack on the country, and how it changed the world.

Govs. Christie and Cuomo have made significant strides confronting fiscal challenges in their respective states. It is time for them to exert leadership and direct their political appointees to fulfill the PA’s contractual obligations, restore the public trust and complete the construction of this vital national treasure.

Ms. Burlingame is a member of the board of directors of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation. Her brother, Charles F. Burlingame III, was the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was hijacked and crashed at the Pentagon on 9/11.

Debra Burlingame: The TSA is inept; We Must Assure Our Skies Are Both Safe and Friendly

This was first published on April 20, 2012 as my Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Kip Hawley, the Transportation Security Administration’s former administrator, fails to acknowledge a November 2011 congressional report documenting that the TSA has become a bloated, 65,000-person bureaucracy larger than the departments of Labor, Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and State, combined (“Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How to Fix It,” Review, April 14). It has spent $57 billion since 2002, $2.7 billion of which was spent on training. Yet half of the people it has hired and trained have left the agency. With the highest attrition rate among the federal work force, the TSA has resorted to placing employment ads in the Washington, D.C., area on pizza boxes and over the pumps at discount gas stations.

The report notes that 25,000 security breaches have taken place at U.S. airports since 9/11. According to the Government Accountability Office, 17 known terrorists have flown on U.S. carriers on 24 occasions, including traveling through eight airports where behavior-detection officers are deployed—a program that has spent $800 million since 2007 and will cost $1.2 billion more over the next five years. While not one terrorist has been spotted, the TSA has justified the expense by citing the discovery of passengers involved in common crimes, such as credit-card fraud or drug smuggling, resulting in mission creep and the pervasive sense that anyone who approaches the check point is a potential suspect.

After the Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009, the take-away lesson for the TSA wasn’t that it should be looking for dangerous people instead of dangerous objects. Instead, the agency doubled down, ordering up more invasive body scanners whose manufacturers have reluctantly admitted can’t detect low-density powder hidden behind male genitals. The virtual strip-search photos put out by the TSA depict captured images of hard metal objects, guns and knives, not explosives.

For me, the sad reality is that the TSA has succeeded in accomplishing what Osama bin Laden couldn’t. I now dread the airport. I view the TSA as an inept government agency, which makes complicity in my own humiliation the price I must pay to fly.

Debra Burlingame
New York

Ms. Burlingame is a co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America and the sister of Capt. Charles F. Burlingame, III, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77.