Keep America Safe

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.

Liz Cheney to Obama on Shahzad sentencing: ‘Being lucky is not a responsible counterterrorism strategy’

Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison today after pleading guilty to charges he attempted to conduct the terrorist attack. Afterward, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said. “The case shows once again how our values and the rule of law can keep us safe against those determined to do us harm on behalf of terrorist organizations overseas.”

Keep America Safe chairman Liz Cheney responded to the Obama Administration’s reaction:

“President Obama and his administration still seem to believe they can keep this nation safe by convicting terrorists in civilian courts. We tried that policy throughout the 1990s and gained convictions of key terrorists. None of those convictions prevented the terrorists from attacking us again and again. Americans expect their government to disrupt plots and defeat terrorists before they can attack us. The Times Square bomber’s attack failed not because it was thwarted, but because his bomb failed to detonate. Being lucky is not a responsible counterterrorism strategy, and convictions in civilian courts will not keep this country safe.”

AG Holder faces tough questions at today’s Senate Judiciary hearing

Attorney General Eric Holder is to testify this morning during an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing will be carried live on C-SPAN and will have more today and this evening as events unfold.

Holder will likely face tough questions over his failure to disclose prior to his confirmation hearing that he participated in two amicus briefs on behalf of Jose Padilla. Republican senators are sure to ask him about the Department of Justice’s March 22, 2010 response letter to the committee wherein Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich all but conceded the ‘Moussaoui-fix’ to the Classified Information Protection Act had been incorporated into Military Commissions yet remained lacking in federal statute. The Washington Post writes:

Chief among the Republican targets: Holder’s announcement, since reversed, that the administration planned to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, in federal court in lower Manhattan. No new arrangements for a venue have been made. And the decision is now being managed by the White House rather than the Justice Department, putting Holder in the awkward position of having to defend a decision that has been overruled and is still in limbo.

But that well-worn territory may be the least of Holder’s concerns, according to several Judiciary Committee officials.

Republicans are livid about Holder’s failure to include in his confirmation questionnaire that he had written friend-of-the-court briefs in the terror case of Jose Padilla, arguing that civilian trials were appropriate to handle terror suspects and keep executive power in check. Holder sent a letter apologizing to the committee immediately after the amicus briefs were disclosed, but “there is still a lot of anger there,” one Republican aide said.

And there are questions about his recent public statements. The last time Holder appeared on Capitol Hill, testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, he had a testy exchange with Republicans over his intent to use civilian courts for terrorist trials. At one point, he declared that, far from coddling terrorists, the administration would never capture the most wanted al-Qaeda leader alive — but would instead “be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden.”

That triggered a debate within the administration over the policy for handling bin Laden, with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, contradicting Holder the following day.

Perhaps we will get some outline of the DOJ’s plan to appeal the ordered release of 9/11 hijacker recruiter Mohamedou Slahi:

A convicted Ohio terrorist had ties to an al Qaeda suspect who met with some of the Sept. 11 hijackers and told them how to reach Afghanistan to train for jihad, according to a federal court ruling.

Guantánamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi sent Christopher Paul a fax in 1997 asking for advice on where to send would-be jihadists, or holy warriors, and later referred to Paul as “a man of great respect in al Qaeda,” according to the ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge James Robertson in the District of Columbia.

Federal prosecutors had previously acknowledged the fax but had never said who sent it. Robertson’s order referred to the fax as a key piece of the government’s evidence about Slahi’s recruitment for al Qaeda. Slahi met Paul in Afghanistan in 1992, apparently had contact with him in Germany in 1998 and then called him twice from Canada in 1999, according to Robertson’s order.