blind_html Fwd: Obama and the 9/11 Families

  • From: Nimer Jaber <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 08 May 2009 12:32:10 -0600

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        Obama and the 9/11 Families
Date:   Fri, 8 May 2009 16:25:01 -0000
From:   Ray T. Mahorney <coffee-craver@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       Blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To:     <blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> <>
Obama and the 9/11 Families
The president isn't sincere about 'swift and certain' justice for terrorists.By

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

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

News reports described the meeting as a touching and powerful coming together of the president
and these long-suffering families. Mr. Obama had won over
even those who opposed his decision to close Gitmo by assuaging their fears that the review of
some 245 current detainees would result in dangerous jihadists
being set free. "I did not vote for the man, but the way he talks to you, you can't help but
believe in him," said John Clodfelter to the New York Times.
His son, Kenneth, was killed in the Cole bombing. "[Mr. Obama] left me with a very positive
feeling that he's going to get this done right."

"This isn't goodbye," said the president, signing autographs and posing for pictures before
leaving for his next appointment, "this is hello." His national
security staff would have an open-door policy.

Believe . . . feel . . . hope.

We'd been had.

Binyam Mohamed -- the al Qaeda operative selected by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) for a
catastrophic post-9/11 attack with co-conspirator Jose Padilla --
was released 17 days later. In a follow-up conference call, the White House liaison to 9/11 and
Cole families refused to answer questions about the circumstances
surrounding the decision to repatriate Mohamed, including whether he would be freed in Great

The phrase "swift and certain justice" had been used by top presidential adviser David Axelrod
in an interview prior to our meeting with the president.
"Swift and certain justice" figured prominently in the White House press release issued before
we had time to surrender our White House security passes.
"At best, he manipulated the families," Kirk Lippold, commanding officer of the USS Cole at the
time of the attack and the leader of the Cole families
group, told me recently. "At worst, he misrepresented his true intentions."

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder told German reporters that 30 detainees had been cleared
for release. This includes 17 Chinese fundamentalist Muslims,
the Uighurs, some of whom admit to having been trained in al Qaeda and Taliban camps and being
associated with the East Turkistan Islamic Party. This party
is led by Abdul Haq, who threatened attacks on the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing and was
recently added to the Treasury Department's terrorist list. The
Obama administration is considering releasing the Uighurs on U.S. soil, and it has suggested
that taxpayers may have to provide them with welfare support.
In a Senate hearing yesterday, Mr. Holder sidestepped lawmakers' questions about releasing
detainees into the U.S. who have received terrorist training.

What about the terrorists who may actually be tried? The Justice Department's recent plea
agreement with Ali Saleh al-Marri should be of grave concern to
those who believe the Obama administration will vigorously prosecute terrorists in the federal
court system.

Al-Marri was sent to the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001, by KSM to carry out cyanide bomb attacks. He
pled guilty to one count of "material support," a charge reserved
for facilitators rather than hard-core terrorists. He faces up to a 15-year sentence, but will
be allowed to argue that the sentence should be satisfied
by the seven years he has been in custody. This is the kind of thin "rule of law" victory that
will invigorate rather than deter our enemies.

Given all the developments since our meeting with the president, it is now evident that his
words to us bore no relation to his intended actions on national
security policy and detainee issues. But the narrative about Mr. Obama's successful meeting with
9/11 and Cole families has been written, and the press
has moved on.

The Obama team has established a pattern that should be plain for all to see. When controversy
erupts or legitimate policy differences are presented by
well-meaning people, send out the celebrity president to flatter and charm.

Most recently, Mr. Obama appeared at the CIA after demoralizing the agency with the
declassification and release of memos containing sensitive information
on CIA interrogations. He appealed to moral vanity by saying that fighting a war against fanatic
barbarians "with one hand tied behind your back" is being
on "the better side of history," even though innocent lives are put at risk. He promised the
assembled staff and analysts that if they keep applying themselves,
they won't be personally marked for career-destroying sanctions or criminal prosecutions, even
as disbelieving counterterrorism professionals -- the field
operatives and their foreign partners -- shut down critical operations for fear of public
disclosure and political retribution in the never-ending Beltway
soap opera called Capitol Hill.

It worked: On television, his speech looked like a campaign rally, with people jumping up and
down, cheering. Meanwhile, the media have moved on, even as
they continue to recklessly and irresponsibly use the word "torture" in their stories.

I asked Cmdr. Kirk Lippold why some of the Cole families declined the invitation to meet with
Barack Obama at the White House.

"They saw it for what it was."

Ms. Burlingame, a former attorney and a director of the National September 11 Memorial
Foundation, is the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, the
pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A13

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Ray T. Mahorney

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