Debra Burlingame

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.

9/11 Families Respond to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: (914) 844-3146 Media@911familiesforamerica.org

9/11 Families Respond to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

New York, NY, August, 18 — For the last four months, 9/11 families, first responders, survivors and concerned citizens have been asking where developers are getting funding for a $100-million dollar mosque and Islamic center planned for Ground Zero. The imam who is heading the project has refused to identify the source of the $5 million cash that was used to purchase the building, and told an Arab newspaper that he will get funding for the project from Arab and Muslim countries. Given the imam’s statements, that America was “an accessory to the crime” on 9/11, that “Osama Bin Laden was made in the U.S.A.” as well as his repeated refusal to condemn Hamas, we believe he has an obligation to come clean to the public on his financial sources. Our concern has been amplified by news that the imam’s worldwide “Shariah Index Project” is being funded by the Malaysian government, and that he is a principal figure in the Perdana Global Peace Project, the number one funder of the Gaza Flotilla, a violent attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Today we learn that instead of taking our concerns seriously, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested that the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque should be investigated. This comment is clearly intended to intimidate those of us who are speaking out to preserve the sanctity of Ground Zero, where more than 20,000 human remains have been recovered, 1,845 in the last five years. We can assure Ms. Pelosi that whatever funds we have spent to get our message out, they pale in comparison to the price we have personally paid since that day, and continue to pay as a result of the mosque project. The vast majority of the American people support us. They lived through September 11 with us, and they know, as we do, that this not a “local issue.” What happened on 9/11 affected all Americans.

Debra Burlingame
Tim Sumner
Co-founders, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America

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www.911familiesforamerica.org
www.stopthe911mosque.com

Urgent Action Alert: nomination of Deputy Attorney General James Cole Must Be Stopped

Urgent Action Alert for [today]! A message from Debra Burlingame of 911 Families for a Safe and Strong America.

Dear 9/11 Families and Friends:

President Obama has nominated James Cole to be the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) at the the Department of Justice. This is a critically important position. While Attorney General Eric Holder is the nominal head of the Justice Department, it is the deputy attorney general who actually runs the day-to-day operations of the entire department. For instance, it was Mr. Holder who, as DAG during the Clinton administration, orchestrated the Sept. 1999 clemencies of 16 terrorists belonging to the FALN, a Puerto Rican separatist group that carried out 146 bombings which killed 9 people and maimed NYPD bomb squad officers. Mr. Holder also facilitated and pushed through the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, who made billions of dollars engaging in illegal oil trades on behalf of Iranian ayatollahs. Today, the DAG has a pivotal role in formulating and executing decisions dealing with the policy issues surrounding the capture, detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected Islamic terrorists.

So who is James Cole? As a partner at the law firm of Bryan Cave, he represented Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family and one of the defendants in the 9/11 lawsuit filed on behalf of 9/11 Families against the government of Saudi Arabia and other Saudi individuals by the law firm of Motley Rice. Prince Naif ran the Al Haramain Foundation, a Saudi charity designated in 2004 by the U.S. Treasury Department as a facilitator of terrorism which diverted charitable funds to Al Qaeda both before and after Sept.11, 2001.

Additionally, in 2006, Mr. Cole was also appointed as an independent overseer of insurance giant AIG. The whistleblower non-profit, Government Accountability Project, has come out against his nomination due to the gross irregularities that happened while he was charged with oversight responsibilities prior to its 2008 collapse. See http://www.whistleblower.org/blog/31-2010/529-aig-monitor-james-cole-wrong-choice-for-deputy-attorney-general

In light of this history, it is impossible to fathom how Mr. Cole can ethically carry out his duties and responsibilities as the de facto head of the Justice Department while U.S. troops are fighting terrorists who receive funding and support from organizations associated with the Saudi government and their proxies. This is a direct conflict of interest. Given Saudi NGOs’ continued involvement in terrorist facilitation world-wide and their connection to the Saudi royal family, this conflict of interest will cripple Mr. Cole’s ability to ethically perform his duties as head of a department charged with investigating and prosecuting terrorist facilitators associated with or working for the Saudi government.

Below is an op-ed published by Mr. Cole just two days before the first anniversary of 9/11, in which he compares 9/11 to drug crimes, ordinary murder, rape and mafia-type crimes, saying that the “war on drugs” is actually “a longer term and far more devastating disaster for our country in terms of the number of people affected…” Ironically, Mr. Cole says that the only factor which distinguishes those crimes and the “tragedies of Sept. 11? is that “foreign organizations, possibly even foreign governments, were involved in the planning, funding and carrying out of the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Further, Mr. Cole has gone on record opposing military commissions for any detainees, stating that military commissions are an inferior form of justice which do not provide defendants with adequate due process protections. In light of the fact that the Obama administration continues to drag its feet on an announcement regarding the forum and venue for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other admitted 9/11 conspirators, Mr. Cole’s nomination is an alarming signal. The public is overwhelmingly opposed to holding these trials in New York federal court. Clearly, the administration needs to hear from us again.

Mr. Cole is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, June 15. The hearing, calendared so quickly after the announcement of Mr. Cole’s nomination, appears calculated to capitalize on the media’s attention on the oil spill crisis in the Gulf, and to limit our ability to mount public objection.

I urge all 9/11 family members and friends who were disappointed that the administration opposed the 9/11 Families’ opportunity to have their day in court in the Saudi lawsuit, to contact the President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and members of Congress, and express your adamant objection to Mr. Cole’s nomination to Deputy Attorney General.

Respectfully,

Debra Burlingame
Co-founder, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America
www.911familesforamerica.org
media@911familiesforamerica.org

See the 9/11 Families Legal Complaint: http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/case_docs/1239.pdf

Keep America Safe Statement In Response To President Obama’s New Role In The KSM Debate

Keep America Safe Statement In Response To President Obama’s New Role In The KSM Debate

“We welcome President Obama’s decision to engage on a matter of vital national security. The process by which 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried, and the location of the trial, require the urgent attention of our Commander in Chief.

“We also welcome the administration’s newfound openness to prosecuting KSM in a military commission. Military commissions, which have been used since the beginning of American history, have been authorized by Congress and are the appropriate way to deal with war criminals during wartime. Moreover, they support bedrock principles of international humanitarian law that afford privileges to those who adhere to the laws of war. Rewarding those who savagely target civilians with all the rights and privileges of American citizens in our civilian courts incentivizes them to continue attacking civilians.

“An overwhelming, bipartisan majority of Americans believe that captured terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants and face military justice. They are right and it’s time for President Obama to start listening to the American people.”

Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol and Debra Burlingame
Board of Directors
Keep America Safe

We must rise up against the trial: It’s time for 9/11 families to fight Holder’s dangerous move

My commentary appears in the New York Daily News this morning. Here it is; please take a few minutes to read it, join us if you can Saturday 12/5 at noon in Foley Square, and co-sign our letter to President Obama:

My brother was Charles (Chic) Burlingame, captain of American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now I am one of the organizers of a rally being held at noon this Saturday in Foley Square to stop President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and members of Congress from bringing sworn enemies of the United States into this country – from bringing war criminals captured on the battlefield, lawfully held as war detainees, into civilian court.

It doesn’t have to happen. We who are opposed to the decision must make ourselves perfectly clear to the powers that be that we will not tolerate this decision.

Two weeks ago, 300 family members of 9/11 victims sent a letter to the President telling him we adamantly oppose this dangerous and unnecessary act. The letter was never acknowledged. Then, one hour after the attorney general made his stunning announcement that unlawful foreign combatants would be tried as civilians, the number of signers to that letter jumped to 45,000. By the end of the day the number was 100,000. Our Internet server couldn’t handle the volume of Americans who had somehow found out about this letter and wished to stand with us.

The attorney general has suggested that those who oppose prosecuting these men here in New York City are afraid – that we somehow don’t have the courage to face Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in court.

How dare this man, who didn’t have the decency to notify victims’ families of his decision to bring these monsters here, imply that we lack courage. Courage is carrying on after watching your loved ones die, in real time, knowing that they burned to death, were crushed to death, or jumped from 100 flights high. Courage is carrying on, even as we waited, in some cases years, for something of our loved ones to bury. More than 1,100 families still wait.

How dare the attorney general suggest that the firefighters who oppose this trial need to “man up” and let this avowed enemy of America mock their brother firefighters in the country’s most magisterial setting, a federal court.