Wednesday, December 10, 2008

9/11 Victims' Families Challenge Legitimacy of Guantanamo Military Commissions

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Civil Liberties Union today released a statement from 25 9/11 victims' family members challenging the legitimacy of the Guantanamo military commissions and their ability to achieve justice.

Below is the full text of the statement:


As family members who lost loved ones on 9/11, we feel compelled to speak out about this week's proceedings at Guantanamo. Recently, the Guantanamo military commissions office announced that victims' family members would be permitted, on a lottery basis, to attend the Guantanamo legal hearings of those accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. The lottery system inherently results in the granting of media attention to the select few who are chosen, and whose views are not necessarily representative of all victims' families. The media coverage of Monday's commission hearings included statements attributed to attending family members that the tribunals provided a fair hearing for these prosecutions and that family members "were struck by the extensive rights accorded the accused men."

While we support everyone's right to their individual opinions about these proceedings, including, of course, other family members who have suffered the devastation we have, we also feel obliged to make clear that many of us do not believe these military commissions to be fair, in accordance with American values, or capable of achieving the justice that 9/11 family members and all Americans deserve.

We believe that the secretive and unconstitutional nature of these proceedings deprive us of the right to know the full truth about what happened on 9/11. These prosecutions have been politically motivated from the start, are designed to ensure quick convictions at the expense of due process and transparency, and are structured to prevent the revelation of abusive interrogations and torture engaged in by the U.S. government. Unfortunately, any verdict borne of these proceedings will lack legitimacy and leave us wondering if true justice has been served. No comfort or closure can come from military commissions that ignore the rule of law and stain America's reputation at home and abroad.

We are strongly encouraged by the incoming administration's promise to end this shameful system, and we are hopeful for a fresh start for these and all other Guantanamo prosecutions in U.S. courts worthy of American justice. It is time for our nation to stop betraying its own values - and the values of so many who died on 9/11.

Anne M. Mulderry, Kinderhook, New York, mother of Stephen V. Mulderry

Terry Kay Rockefeller, Arlington, MA, sister of Laura Rockefeller

J. William Harris, Arlington, MA, brother-in-law of Laura Rockefeller

Loretta Filipov, Concord, MA, wife of Alexander M. Filipov

Alissa Torres, New York, NY, wife of Luis Eduardo Torres

Bob McIlvaine, Oreland, PA, father of Bobby McIlvaine

Wright Salisbury, Lexington, MA, father-in-law of Edward Hennessy, Jr.

Barbara and Jim Fyfe, Durham, NC, parents of Karleton Douglas Beye Fyfe

Robyn Bernstein, Bolton, MA, daughter of Roberta Bernstein Heber

Patricia J. and James L. Perry, M.D., Seaford, NY, parents of NYPD officer John W. Perry

Rita Lasar, New York, NY, sister of Abraham Zelmanowitz

Valerie Lucznikowska, New York, NY, aunt of Adam Arias

Marion Kminek, Cape Coral, FL, mother of Mari-Rae Sopper

Kate Walsh Calton, Tampa, FL, wife of James Walsh

Beverly Eckert, Stamford, CT, wife of Sean Rooney
Monica Gabrielle, wife of Richard Gabrielle

Lorie Van Auken, wife of Kenneth Van Auken

Dr. Robin S. Theurkauf, wife of Thomas Theurkauf

Andrea N. LeBlanc, Lee, NH, wife of Robert G. LeBlanc

Frank Tatum, Stillwater, NY, son of Diane Moore Parsons

Antonio Aversano, Hadley, MA, son of Louis F. Aversano, Jr.

Nissa Youngren, Rochester, NY, daughter of Robert G. LeBlanc

Paula Shapiro, Pala, CA, mother of Eric Adam Eisenberg

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ground Zero Evokes Emotions for General, Wounded Warriors

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, presents a flag flown over Ground Zero in New York to Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti after a brief ceremony at the site for a group of wounded veterans. The ceremony was part of a United Service Organizations-Microsoft "A Salute to Our Troops" weekend. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley

The grey sky had been trying to hold back the rain forecasters had promised yesterday, but it couldn't stave off the drops any longer as wounded servicemembers worked to check their tears during a ceremony at Ground Zero here, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood until Sept. 11, 2001.

For many, including Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, it was a first visit to the hallowed ground. He had been on the job at the Pentagon as director of the Army Operations Center for three weeks on that day when American Airlines Flight 77 tore a hole in the side of building.

"For me, this is particularly a difficult place to be. I just didn't want to come," Chiarelli told the wounded warriors. "Today, I know why I never came to this location. [It was so] I could be here for the first time with you. Being here with you is truly something very, very special.

"I salute each and every one of you," he said, adding a crisp hand salute.

The visit was extremely emotional for some of the servicemembers. Army Staff Sgt. Charles Eggleston, who suffered multiple injuries when his patrol was hit by a roadside bomb near Mosul, Iraq, in 2005, said he was near the Pentagon on Sept. 11, and it was good for him to see the New York site.

"It's good to get a chance to really establish that closure that you never had a chance to [before]," he said. "You can almost feel the spirits here. That's cool. That's the way it is."

Army Cpl. Jeffrey Stowers, who suffers from an enlarged heart caused by a blunt-force trauma about a month ago, called the experience surreal.

"I viewed [the Sept. 11 attack] as it was unfolding on TV at my house," he said. "My wife and I, for the past five years, discussed making a trip up here."

He said it was especially meaningful for him to have made his first trip with 'my family and my family,' referring to his wife, Karri, and his military brethren.

Raw emotions bubbled to the surface when Chiarelli concluded the ceremony by presenting each of the warriors with a cased American flag that had been flown over Ground Zero.

"There are so many people that deserve this more than me. I don't feel worthy of this," Stowers said. "There are people who gave everything."

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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