Congress

Congress should override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have vowed to override President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, S.2040, known as JASTA, and both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have stated they would sign the bill into law if they were president. It would allow 9/11 family members to bring a lawsuit in federal court against Saudi Arabia. The lawsuit seeks justice; Islamists slaughtered 3,000 men, women, and children on our soil.

It is also a quest for truth. Here’s some: former Senator Bob Kerry refuted claims that the 9/11 Commission cleared the Saudi government of complicity in the September 11 attacks:

Stated most simply, our investigation found substantial evidence that one or more Saudi government employees located in the United States provided direct aid and support to the 9/11 hijackers. Those Saudi government employees were associated with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the same arm of the Saudi government that had primary responsibility for implementing the Kingdom’s global efforts to propagate the radical Wahhabi stream of Islam, and that was responsible for supervising Wahhabi proselytizing organizations that directly sponsored al Qaeda, like Al Haramain.

[See here and here for State Department terror designations of Al Haramain.]

Andrew J. Maloney, Liaison Counsel at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP for the plaintiffs, added (in response to our request for comment):

“While the International Islamic Relief Organization [the IIRO is Saudi Arabia-based] has been deeply involved with al Qaeda since the founding of al Qaeda in Pakistan in 1988, over the past few years our investigation has led us to the bigger picture role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs. While the MOIA has provided oversight of the al Qaeda charities, it has also trained and deployed al Qaeda members and supporters worldwide. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!”

Indeed, the plaintiffs’ 157-page complaint should easily meet JASTA’s litigation threshold requirements. Read it and, in small part, you will discover:

* “In 1993, [Saudi] King Fahd established a new “Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment (Waqf), Guidance and Da’awa” (the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa). … With its formation, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa assumed primary responsibility for supervising and directing the activities of Saudi Arabia’s charity alter-egos, including among others the MWL, IIRO, WAMY, and al Haramain, in keeping with the new ministry’s authority over all Saudi da’awa activities outside of the Kingdom.”

* “In addition to the support that flowed to al Qaeda from the Kingdom’s charity agents and alter-egos, investigations by the United States and its allies have confirmed that officials within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Da’awa collaborated directly with al Qaeda members, and that agents of the Saudi government, including representatives of the Islamic Affairs Departments in the Saudi embassy in Berlin and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, provided direct assistance to the September 11th plotters and hijackers, which was essential to the success of the attacks.”

* “As the 9/11 Commission correctly observed, the two hijackers [Hazmi and Mihdhar] were “ill prepared for a mission in the United States. Their only qualifications for this plot were their devotion to Usama Bin Ladin, their veteran service, and their ability to get valid U.S. visas. Neither had spent any time in the West, and neither spoke much, if any, English.” … The Commission concluded it was therefore “unlikely that Hazmi and Mihdhar – neither of whom, in contrast to the Hamburg group, had any prior exposure to life in the West – would have come to the United States without arranging to receive assistance from one or more individuals informed in advance of their arrival.””

* “On February 1, 2000, Bayoumi and Caysan bin Don (a/k/a “Isamu Dyson”) got into Bayoumi’s car and drove nearly two hours from San Diego to the Saudi Arabian Royal Consulate in Los Angeles. Bayoumi had previously disclosed to friends at the ICSD that he had friends at the Saudi Consulate. Although the stated purpose of the trip was to resolve a visa issue and obtain Islamic religious materials and Korans, Bayoumi had told at least one other person prior to the trip that he was going to Los Angeles to pick up visitors.”

* “Upon arriving at the Saudi Consulate, Bayoumi met for an hour with an official from the Consulate’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office, Fahad al Thumairy. U.S. officials have concluded that Thumairy and Bayoumi discussed the recent arrival of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar in the United States, and Bayoumi was tasked with getting them welcomed and assimilated into the San Diego Muslim community. … Thumairy, who was twenty-nine years old at the time of the meeting with Bayoumi, graduated with a degree in Islamic studies from the Imam Muhammad Bin Saudi Islamic University in the Kingdom and immediately joined the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs.”

* “Thumairy was an accredited diplomat at the Saudi Consulate from 1996 to 2003, and further served as a religious leader at the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, CA, a mosque that had been built with financial assistance from the government of Saudi Arabia. As of January 2000, Thumairy acted as the Saudi Consulate’s liaison to the King Fahd Mosque, per the request of his superiors at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. After arriving in the United States on January 15, Hazmi and Mihdhar reportedly spent time at the King Fahd Mosque until their move to San Diego a few short weeks later.”

* “Bayoumi (a/k/a “Omar Ahmad Mustafa Al-Baioomi”), was a long-time employee of the Saudi Arabian government … a top FBI official has stated that “We [the FBI] firmly believed that he [Bayoumi] had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them [Hazmi and Mihdhar] that day was more than coincidence.””

* “Evidence further indicates that an additional source of Saudi government funding used to support the activities of Hazmi and Mihdhar while in the United States came by way of Bayoumi’s relationship with Osama Yousef Basnan, another agent of the Saudi government who was being groomed to replace Bayoumi in San Diego. Basnan, known as a vocal al Qaeda sympathizer and further described by U.S. intelligence as an “ardent UBL [Osama bin Laden] supporter” who “has been in contact with UBL family members,” was a target of FBI investigations as early as 1992.”

* “… on October 17, 1992, Basnan hosted a party in Washington D.C. for Omar Abdul Rahman (a/k/a the “Blind Sheikh”) who is currently serving a life sentence following his conviction for his role in supporting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for plotting a “day of terror” in which he planned to attack the United Nations in New York City, bomb the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and assassinate then-Senator Alfonse D’Amato. … FBI sources further report that in September 2000, Basnan was in phone and email contact with senior al Qaeda member and key facilitator for the September 11th attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh. Binalshibh himself confirmed his relationship with Basnan during interrogations by U.S. officials following his capture in Karachi, Pakistan on September 11, 2002.” [Binalshibb is alleged to be the 9/11 plot coordinator, then located in Germany, and is currently awaiting trial by Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.]

* “The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is further implicated in the September 11th terrorist attacks by virtue of the relationship between the 9/11 plot’s “Hamburg cell” and the head of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Muhammad Jaber Hassan Fahiki. The “Hamburg cell” consisted of key operatives in the September 11th attacks, including Mohammed Atta (the ringleader of the 19 hijackers who piloted American Airlines Flight 11), Marwan al Shehhi (piloted United Airlines Flight 175), Ziad Jarrah (piloted United Airlines Flight 93), Ramzi Binalshibh, Mounir el Motassadeq, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and others.”

Congress should override Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

9/11 family members deserve the opportunity to present their case in federal court. Yet every American needs to know if and when Saudi Arabia replaced Iran as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

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.