Debra Burlingame

Response to New York Daily News by Debra Burlingame

The New York Daily News falsely and dishonestly reported yesterday ([in] 9/11 Kin Barred from Gitmo Trial by James Gordon Meek) that 9/11 family members have been barred from observing the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four of his co-conspirators. In fact, the Daily News and its reporter know that the trial, which has yet to be scheduled and which may not commence for several months, will be broadcast on closed circuit tv and all 9/11 family members will be able to monitor the gavel-to-gavel proceedings from remote locations here in the United States.

Further, it falsely reports that the DOD singled out one family member to “secretly” attend Thursday’s arraignment of these five 9/11 defendants, heavily insinuating that the purpose was to propagandize on behalf of the Bush administration, “alongside conservatives from the American Legion and Judicial Watch.” I am the family member the article names, calling me a “GOP loyalist whose brother Charles died in the attacks.” Essentially, the article accuses me of using my brother’s brutal murder as an opportunity to engage in a “covert” operation whose end is crass partisan politics.

This is an outrageous personal insult and deeply hurtful accusation. In the six and one half years since my brother, Chic, the captain of American Airlines flight 77, was brutally murdered in the cockpit of his airplane, my primary focus has been to contribute to the nation’s effort in stopping these barbaric terrorists from perpetrating another attack.

Recently, while researching an article I am writing about former Guantanamo detainee Abdullah Al-Ajmi, who carried out a deadly suicide attack in Mosul, Iraq six weeks ago, I asked a Pentagon public information officer whether the arraignment of 9/11 defendants would be taking place as scheduled. I was surprised when the press officer affirmed that it would and asked if I would be interested in attending. Of course, I was. I felt the Pentagon should have offered all 9/11 family members the opportunity to attend the arraignment, but understood the decision not to do so. There is an emotional component to these events that can be profoundly debilitating. In my experience, the victims’ liaison personnel are highly attuned to and protective of families needs. The trip to Guantanamo is grueling, the conditions are spartan — water is rationed and members of the press will be sleeping in tents — all for a proceeding that may be over in half a day, and which could well be postponed after observers arrive due to rulings on pending defense motions.

We all want to see justice done, and many of us are hoping that the military commissions provide a fair and objective means of holding these men accountable for their war crimes. Some have already decided that any legal proceedings short of criminal trials with full Constitutional rights are defective. I have taken the view that these men are war criminals who are not entitled to Constitutional protections that even uniformed prisoners of war in World War II did not receive. Giving Miranda rights to terrorists would seriously undermine the country’s ability to gather the kind of critical intelligence we need to prevent future attacks on innocent civilians. The detainees’ habeas attorney Michael Ratner — who has made it clear that his mission is to shut down Guantanamo — bragged, “You can’t run an interrogation…with lawyers.”

The military commissions, as currently constituted in accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2006 enacted by Congress, must be above reproach. Many 9/11 family members are taking a wait and see attitude. We refuse to call them “rigged” or a “kangaroo court” without evidence of impropriety simply because they are administered by the military. While the rights of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow defendants will remain the obvious focus of attention and the subject of intense debate, the bitter reality is that my brother and the 2,972 other victims who died on 9/11 were offered no rights of any kind. At the very least, we should never forget them. For me, this was not about politics.

I have come to know dozens of 9/11 family members over the years. They have my deep respect and many have become dear friends. I would never countenance or participate in an effort to bar them from what I know is so important to us all. To suggest that the government concocted a “secret” or “covert” trip to Guantanamo Bay, in full view of members of the press, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and other NGO’s, is patently absurd. My deepest regret is that by mischaracterizing the nature and circumstances of this episode, reporter Meek has caused unnecessary hurt by inaccurately implicating the Pentagon’s victim-liaison officer, Capt. Karen Loftus, who knew absolutely nothing about my last-minute inclusion on the observer list and who is working night and day to fairly and reasonably accommodate all 9/11 families members for the forthcoming trial itself.

Editor — Also see these:

No 9/11 kin will witness Gitmo arraignments, thanks to DoD and a NY Daily News ‘reporter’

ABC News: 9/11 Families: Gitmo Tribunals ‘Tainted’

Clintons hands off or out for Saudis’ money?

This quote from Hillary Clinton, New York’s junior Senator, really hit me in the face:

“I want you to come to the White House and say, ‘I heard you in Akron; when are you going to produce those jobs?’ ” Mrs. Clinton said at the rally here. And, regarding the high price of oil, she has taken to saying as she did here, “I’m not interested in holding hands with the Saudis — I’m interested in holding them accountable.”

Really? Then how about you and your husband being accountable and disclosing the details of the tens of millions of dollars the House of Saud and other Gulf sultans are giving to Clinton projects like the presidential libary in Little Rock? The Clintons have steadfastly refused to disclose their donor list, as well as reams of records relating to the first lady’s “experience” during her husband’s two terms.

Voters in Ohio should ask Sentator Clinton how she will hold the Saudis accountable when she is in the White House if her husband is holding his hand out in Little Rock.

Urge Utah Senate to divest terror

Christopher Holton, the Vice-President of the Center for Security Policy, writes:

State Representative Julie Fisher of Utah has taken the divest terror movement on her shoulders and done heroic work in her state in the current legislative session. Working against great odds, through cunning and persistence she has pushed Utah’s Divest Iran bill through the Utah House of Representatives singlehandedly.

Now she needs our help.

Due to some VERY questionable, but monied, interests, including interests with possible ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the deck is stacked against her bill in the Utah Senate.

We need a wave of action to overcome. Please take 3 minutes to view the YouTube video at the link below. It does an outstanding job of putting this issue in perspective. If I could, I would make this video the flagship for the initiative nationwide.

Look at the video, forward it to everyone you know–EVEN IF YOU AREN’T FROM UTAH. We need to create a national buzz about this. If you have a web site, please embed this video on that web site. If you have contacts in the blogosphere, please forward this email to them. If you know any talk radio hosts, please forward this video to them.

And, again, even if you are not from Utah, I urge you to contact the Senators in that video. Email them. Call them. Those of you who are in the Guard and Reserve and are members of military families especially. OUR PUBLIC INVESTMENT DOLLARS ARE BEING USED TO INVEST IN FOREIGN COMPANIES THAT PROVIDE CORPORATE LIFE SUPPORT TO THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM–IRAN. IRAN IS ALSO THE COUNTRY THAT IS SUPPORTING INSURGENTS IN IRAQ WITH ADVANCED IEDS, AS WELL AS TALIBAN FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN.

Here is more on the bill.