Obama and the 9/11 Families
The president isn't sincere about 'swift and certain' justice for terrorists.
In February I was among a group of USS Cole and 9/11 victims' families who met with the president at the White House to discuss his policies regarding Guantanamo detainees. Although many of us strongly opposed Barack Obama's decision to close the detention center and suspend all military commissions, the families of the 17 sailors killed in the 2000 attack in Yemen were particularly outraged.
Over the years, the Cole families have seen justice abandoned by the Clinton administration and overshadowed by the need of the Bush administration to gather intelligence after 9/11. They have watched in frustration as the president of Yemen refused extradition for the Cole bombers.
Now, after more than eight years of waiting, Mr. Obama was stopping the trial of Abu Rahim al-Nashiri, the only individual to be held accountable for the bombing in a U.S. court. Patience finally gave out. The families were giving angry interviews, slamming the new president just days after he was sworn in.
The Obama team quickly put together a meeting at the White House to get the situation under control. Individuals representing "a diversity of views" were invited to attend and express their concerns.
On Feb. 6, the president arrived in the Roosevelt Room to a standing though subdued ovation from some 40 family members. With a White House photographer in his wake, Mr. Obama greeted family members one at a time and offered brief remarks that were full of platitudes ("you are the conscience of the country," "my highest duty as president is to protect the American people," "we will seek swift and certain justice"). Glossing over the legal complexities, he gave a vague summary of the detainee cases and why he chose to suspend them, focusing mostly on the need for speed and finality.
Many family members pressed for Guantanamo to remain open and for the military commissions to go forward. Mr. Obama allowed that the detention center had been unfairly confused with Abu Ghraib, but when asked why he wouldn't rehabilitate its image rather than shut it down, he silently shrugged. Next question.
Mr. Obama was urged to consult with prosecutors who have actually tried terrorism cases and warned that bringing unlawful combatants into the federal courts would mean giving our enemies classified intelligence -- as occurred in the cases of the al Qaeda cell that carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and conspired to bomb New York City landmarks with ringleader Omar Abdel Rahman, the "Blind Sheikh." In the Rahman case, a list of 200 unindicted co-conspirators given to the defense -- they were entitled to information material to their defense -- was in Osama bin Laden's hands within hours. It told al Qaeda who among them was known to us, and who wasn't.
Mr. Obama responded flatly, "I'm the one who sees that intelligence. I don't want them to have it, either. We don't have to give it to them."
How could anyone be unhappy with such an answer? Or so churlish as to ask follow-up questions in such a forum? I and others were reassured, if cautiously so....
Ms Burlingame has much more to say on this, and you can read it here.
Yet another group that sees beyond the smoke and mirrors of this current administration's lies and manipulations.