Congress

9/11 Families Urge Congress to Withhold Funding for Thomson Prison

9/11 FAMILIES URGE CONGRESS TO WITHHOLD FUNDING FOR THOMSON PRISON

July 27, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America
media@911familiesforamerica.org
Debra Burlingame

9/11 Families Alert Congress: President Obama Will Use Thomson Prison Buy to Shut Gitmo

Washington, D.C., July 27, 2012—In a strongly worded letter to House Speaker John Boehner, more than 100 9/11 family members urged Congress to use its appropriations authority to prevent the Obama administration from purchasing Thomson Correctional Facility in Thomson, Ill. The families warned that acquiring the state prison would provide President Obama with a place to move 168 terrorist detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba inside the U.S. homeland, and would put Americans at risk.

“We believe that if Congress clears the way for the Thomson purchase,” the letter stated, “the President will invoke executive authority, defy the wishes of the American people and close Guantanamo Bay detention center without notice, despite bi-partisan opposition from Congress.” They called on members of Congress to join Rep. Frank Wolf, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in rejecting the administration’s request for hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase and retrofit the facility.

In 2010, the Obama administration planned to purchase the Thomson prison and move detainees there but was repeatedly rebuffed by Congress. In 2011, Congress passed bi-partisan legislation barring the use of funds to transfer terrorist detainees into the country for any reason. The families’ letter cited the President’s signing statement on that legislation in which he called the provision “an extreme and risky encroachment on the authority of the executive branch.”

The President’s extensive use of executive authority to nullify acts of Congress has led families of terrorism victims to believe that President Obama will circumvent Congress to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to close Guantanamo.

“The Obama administration has a track record of trying to end run Congress,” said Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America. “The Department of Justice tried to sneak two Gitmo detainees into Virginia in May of 2009 despite the fact that both had admitted attending terrorist training camps in Tora Bora, Afghanistan led by terrorist leader Abdul Haq.”

The families’ letter rejected the Obama administration’s claim that the prison project will create an economic boon to the small rural community, calling it a “specious pretense” and “speculative.” The federal government has spent more than $500 million to house terrorist detainees in a state-of-the-art facility at Guantanamo Bay, which includes a court house for detainees being tried under military commissions.

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The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
United States Congress

July 27, 2012

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We have learned that the Obama administration, through the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons, has revived its plan to purchase the Thomson Correctional Facility in Thomson, Illinois. In 2009, we vigorously opposed President Obama’s plan to purchase the Thomson facility in anticipation of closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and ship nearly 200 terrorist detainees to Illinois. We believed then, and believe now, that bringing hardened terrorists into the U.S. mainland would needlessly put Americans at risk.

We believe that if Congress clears the way for the Thomson purchase the President will invoke executive authority, defy the wishes of the American people, and close Guantanamo Bay detention center without notice despite bi-partisan opposition from Congress. Indeed, while signing a 2011 Defense Authorization bill which included a provision barring the use of funds to transfer Gitmo detainees to the U.S. for any reason, the President signaled his views in a signing statement, calling the prohibition “an extreme and risky encroachment on the authority of the executive branch.”

In an April 4, 2011 letter to the Illinois delegation denying its intention to use the Thomson facility for Guantanamo detainees, the Obama administration nevertheless repeated its position that it considers Thomson sufficiently secure to house detainees and opposes Congressional restrictions on funding it.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent testimony before the U.S. Senate, stating that the administration will not seek to move detainees to Thomson, has not reassured us. The President is in no way bound by the Attorney General’s sworn statement. The administration’s practice of using executive authority to nullify Congressional legislation, coupled with its continued insistence that Thomson is a perfectly appropriate place to relocate more than 100 known terrorists, has compelled us to speak out.

We call on Congress to restrain the President in the only way it can under the circumstances — through its appropriations authority. We urge members of Congress to join Representative Frank Wolf, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to stop President Obama from using this ploy to avoid being held accountable to the American people for bringing terrorists to the U.S. In poll after poll, the public has adamantly rejected the plan to close Guantanamo and bring terrorists to the homeland. In December 2009, a Gallup poll found that 68% opposed closing Gitmo and moving terrorists to the U.S. In December 2010, a Rasmussen poll found that 84% of voters worried that closing Gitmo would set dangerous terrorists free.

The Detainee Review Task Force found in its final report that 95% of the entire detainee population as of January 2009 had a connection to Al Qaeda. We have learned from JTF-GTMO officials that the current final group of 168 detainees consists of the most radical leaders, trained operatives, and ideologically dedicated Islamists of the entire original Guantanamo population.

Moving these dangerous individuals to Thomson under the transparently specious pretense of creating a speculative “federal jobs program” while our troops continue to take casualties and sacrifice their lives on the very battlefield where these terrorists were captured is an outrageous insult to the troops and their families.

We reject the extravagant claims that spending hundreds of millions of federal dollars to purchase, refit and operate the facility will rescue the economy of this small, rural community. In fact, studies show that prison enterprises aimed at injecting dollars into failing communities repeatedly fail to live up to expectations. (See http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2010/0315/Can-a-terror-prison-spark-a-boom) Rural communities like Thomson are sometimes worse off, in part because local economies are displaced, volume suppliers are large companies from far away, and residents don’t have the skills or qualifications to work as prison guards or administrative staff. This would certainly be the case if Thomson were converted to a maximum security facility operated by the U.S. military and unionized federal employees.

The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is the most secure facility in the world. Located on a remote island, protected by land mines, and guarded by military personnel with state-of-the-art equipment and weapons, no one can come within miles of this secure facility unless the U.S. military wants them to. The U.S. government has spent more than $ 500 million for this facility, which includes a state of the art courtroom for those detainees who are being tried in military commissions.

In light of the above facts, the case for closing Guantanamo, indisputably a superbly-run detention center, can only be reduced to one factor: politics.

As Americans whose loved ones were murdered by the very individuals who are now securely detained at Guantanamo, and as citizens who have watched more than 7,000 of our valiant armed forces sacrifice their lives in battle since that dark Tuesday morning almost eleven years ago, we regard the politics behind the effort to close Gitmo as nothing more than a cynical maneuver aimed at fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise.

Mr. Speaker, we urge you and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand firm with the American people, and prevent this lawless and irresponsible plan from going forward.

Respectfully submitted,

KSM trial non-decision angers 9/11 family members; Obama ‘changes’ stance on Gitmo tribunals

I participated in yesterday’s White House conference call briefing to 9/11 family members; they provided us nothing new as to when or where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his lieutenant co-conspirators would be tried.

The Washington Times reported this morning:

Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America and a board member of Keep America Safe, said she was upset at the White House after participating in a conference call with families of the victims of 9/11. “What we heard today is that despite the fact that Congress has closed every loophole for trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators in Article III courts, the White House is persistent in defying the will of the American people and plans to do it anyway,” she said.

The briefers stated to us, “President Obama remains committed to using Article III courts for terrorists,” and added, “The President will work with Congress to lift the restrictions imposed in December 2010.” Last month, the House passed legislation that would extend the bar to all federal agencies imposed against using DOD funding for transferring Gitmo detainees to the U.S.

All of the questions during the call came from 9/11 family members.

The White House could not say how the Justice Department would overcome objections by officials in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania to 9/11 civilian trials in those states and reconcile such a decision with 6th Amendment requirements. They could not provide information as to when the decision would be made. They dodged questions about why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts were not being tried by Military Commission, at Guantanamo, and not being placed at that “top of the list.” They disputed one family member’s assertion that the 9/11 plotters were not being given top priority but provided no evidence to support their counter-argument. One 9/11 family member tersely told White House briefers, “This call is a waste of time.”

Many aging parents of the 2,976 slaughtered on 9/11 will not live to see justice done for the war crimes committed against their loved ones. But President Obama is “taking the issue off the table” for the 2012 election campaign; it will be “all Congress’s fault” if they do not let him bring foreign enemies onto U.S. soil and bestow them with Constitutional rights.

Vote out those House Democrats who flip-flopped to give KSM a civilian trial (Updated)

Updated, 4:55 a.m. Eastern. Nov 25:

While the win-loss tally for the Gitmo switchers was close to an even split, the Democrats lost the House and their vote to bring terrorists into U.S. federal courts for trial contributed to that loss.

In addition, a significant number of House Democrats who consistently voted to bring Gitmo detainees to the U.S. were defeated. They are:

Joe Sestak, PA-7, lost to Pat Toomey in the PA Senate race.

Bob Etheridge, NC-2, lost to Renee Ellmers

John Spratt, SC-5, lost to Mike Mulvaney

Rich Boucher, VA-9, lost to Morgan Griffith

Scott Murphy, NY-20, lost to Christopher Gibson

Steven Kagen, WI-8, lost to Reid Ribble

Phil Hare, IL-17, lost to Robert Schilling

James Oberstar, MN-8, lost to Chip Chavaack

Travis Childers, MS-1, lost to Alan Nunnelee

Gene Taylor, MS-4, lost to Steve Palazzo

Chet Edwards, TX-17, lost to Bill Flores

Ciro Rodriguez, TX-23, lost to Francisco Canseco

John Salazar, CO-3, lost to Scott Tipton

Steve Driehaus, OH-1, lost to Steve Chabot

Solomon Ortiz, TX-27, lost to Blake Farenthold

So far, 41 Democrats who voted on October 15, 2009 to bring Gitmo detainees to the U.S. for trial have lost their congressional races. There remains one undecided race (NY-1).

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Original Post, October 31, 2010, 7:11 AM:

President Barack Obama has indicated he will again attempt to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into the U.S. for a federal trial after the midterm elections. The good news is the House Armed Services Committee cut off the funding this past spring when poll after poll showed a strong majority of the American people are opposed to the plan. If the House shifts to a Republican majority, it is unlikely the funding will be restored. We will be watching for the reelection results of those Democrats who first voted, in a non-binding vote on October 1, 2009, against authorizing the President to bring Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. for trial and then, when it counted a mere two weeks later, they switched their votes.

Two-thirds of these flip-flopping Democrats are in toss up, leans GOP, or likely GOP races with Election Day nearing. One particularly arrogant Congressman, Baron Hill of Indiana’s 9th District, is in a leans GOP race against Todd Young, a former Marine and Deputy Prosecutor in Orange County, IN. Congressman Hill had this to say last October after switching his vote:

“I haven’t had one person ask me about Guantanamo,” said Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind. He added that he does “not in the least” fear it as an issue in next year’s elections.

Maybe Hill is correct; his votes for the health care, stimulus, and energy bills are perhaps why he is behind in the polls.

Yet in comparatively liberal New York, Congressman Daniel Maffei (NY-25) made those same votes, including switching to allow civilian trials for terrorists, and he has lost his lead against challenger Ann Marie Buerkle. Maffei had this to say about his Gitmo switch:

It’s a non-issue. Inside the beltway stuff,” said first-term Rep. Dan Maffai [sic], D-N.Y. “People care about jobs, the economy, health care.”

A third example is Congressman Brad Ellsworth (D, IN-8) in a likely GOP race for that open Senate seat against Dan Coats. While Ellsworth voted for both the health care bill and TARP, Coats slammed Ellsworth for his Gitmo vote in his very first television advertisement.

There are others, like Melissa Bean (IL-8) in a tight race against Joe Walsh, Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8) in a toss up race against Marine veteran Jesse Kelly, and Ron Klein (FL-22) in a leans GOP race against retired Army veteran Lieutenant Colonel Allen West.

To be clear, we would like to see every Congressman who voted to afford the enemy a civilian trial voted out of Congress. But for now, we will be watching the Gitmo flip-floppers listed below (on the left). We urge our fellow Americans to vote for their opponents (listed on the right).

Michael Arcuri, NY-24, versus Richard Hanna *

Melissa Bean, IL-8, versus Joe Walsh *

Tim Bishop, NY-1, versus Randy Altschuler u

* Sanford Bishop, GA-2, versus Mike Keown

John Boccieri, OH-16, versus Jim Renacci *

Rick Boucher, VA-9, versus Morgan Griffith *

* Dennis Cardoza, CA-18, versus Michael Berryhill

* Russ Carnahan, MO-3, versus Ed Martin

* Ben Chandler, KY-6, versus Andy Barr

* Jim Costa, CA-20, versus Andy Vidak

* Jerry F. Costello, IL-12, versus Teri Newman

* Henry Cuellar, TX-28, versus Bryan Underwood

Kathy Dahlkemper, PA-3, versus Mike Kelly *

Lincoln Davis, TN-4, versus, Scott DesJarlais *

* Peter DeFazio, OR-4, versus Art Robinson

Brad Ellsworth, IN-8, versus Dan Coats (for U.S. Senate) *

* Gabrielle Giffords, AZ-8, versus Jesse Kelly

Alan Grayson, FL-8, versus Daniel Webster *

Debbie Halvorson, IL-11, versus Adam Kinzinger *

* Martin Heinrich, NM-1, versus Jonathan Barela

* Brian Higgins, NY-27, versus Leonard Roberto

Baron Hill, IN-9, versus Todd Young *

* Jim Himes, CT-4, versus Dan Debicella

Paul E. Kanjorski, PA-11, versus Lou Barletta *

* Larry Kissell, NC-8, versus Harold Johnson

Ron Klein, FL-22, versus Allen West *

Suzanne M. Kosmas, FL-24, versus Sandy Adams *

* Daniel Lipinski, IL-3, versus Michael A. Bendas

* Stephen Lynch, MA-9, versus Vernon Harrison

Daniel Maffei, NY-25, versus Ann Marie Buerkle *

Betsy Markey, CO-4, versus Cory Gardner *

Jim Marshall, GA-8, versus Austin Scott *

* Jim Matheson, UT-2, versus Morgan Philpot

Kendrick B. Meek, FL-17, versus Marco Rubio (for U.S. Senate) *

* Mike Michaud, ME-2, versus Jason Levesque

Scott Murphy, NY-20, versus Christopher Gibson *

Patrick Murphy, PA-8, versus Michael Fitzpatrick *

Glen Nye, VA-2, versus Scott Rigell *

* Ed Perlmutter, CO-7, versus Ryan L. Frazier

Tom Perriello, VA-5, versus Robert Hurt *

* Collin Peterson, MN-7, versus Lee Byberg

Earl Pomeroy, ND-1, versus Rick Berg *

* Mike Ross, AR-4, versus Beth Anne Rankin

* Bobby Rush, IL-1, versus Ray Wardingley

* Loretta Sanchez, CA-47, versus Van Tran

Mark Schauer, MI-7, versus Tim Walberg *

* Kurt Schrader, OR-5, versus Scott Bruun

* Allyson Schwartz, PA-13, versus Dee Adcock

* Heath Shuler, NC-11, versus Jeff Miller

Ike Skelton, MO-4, versus Vicky Hartzler *

* Adam Smith, WA-9, versus Richard Muri

Dina Titus, NV-3, versus Joe Heck *

Charlie Wilson, OH-6, versus Bill Johnson *

* John Yarmuth, KY-3, versus Todd Lally

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Note:

See RealClearPolitics.com for election race assessments.

November 2 is also All Souls’ Day and we remember 2,976 of those who departed on 9/11.

Renee Ellmers for Congress; No Mosque at Ground Zero

We concur with North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers that “The terrorists haven’t won. We should tell them in plain English, ‘No; there will never be a mosque at Ground Zero.'” Ellmers spoke with Freedom Radio about the mosque and her campaign to unseat Congressman Bob Etheridge:

Last year, eight Muslim residents of her Congressional district were arrested for plotting to attack the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia which demonstrated the threat posed by the rise of radical Islamists here is a national security concern.

Her opponent for North Carolina’s 2nd District seat, Congressman Bob Etheridge, reportedly “has never thought building this mosque and community center so close to Ground Zero is a good idea.” Yet his campaign spokesman Mike Davis “acknowledged that Etheridge has never offered his opinion publicly, but said that’s because ‘he’s not going to get involved in it. … That decision is for New York.'”

We join Renee Ellmers in her call for the leadership of the Republican and Democrat caucuses in Congress to support a resolution opposing the Ground Zero Mosque.

Ceding ground to those who promote the establishment of discriminatory sharia law here in America would encourage both the violent and “non-violent” jihad being waged against our Nation.

America was attacked on 9/11; the Stars and Stripes is the only victory flag that should ever fly over our sacred ground.

Congress must defend 9/11’s sacred ground and expose the Islamist imams

Office of the Honorable John Boehner
United States Congressman, 8th Congressional District (Ohio)

Office of the Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senator, Kentucky

June 21, 2010
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Dear Congressman Boehner and Senator McConnell,

Thank you in advance for your time. I would like to ask if you will review and share with your congressional colleagues the following information which includes, but is not limited to, a collection of quotes and documented activities pertaining to a number of Islamic preachers (Imams) in America.

It is important to know that for them, being truthful to Americans would place their agenda in jeopardy; and when confronted, their strategy is to maintain that their words have been “taken out of context,” to dismiss critics as fringe groups who irrationally fear Islam, and to throw out accusations of “anti-Muslim bigotry” and “intolerance”.

They falsely play victim and have no legitimate defense; for it is their prejudices, religious intolerance, and ideological dogma that can threaten safety and civil society.

When the audience is the American public, these particular ideologists will speak of peace, dialogue and inclusiveness. When they are in front of their co-religionists, the conversation changes.