Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S. Senate Joins House of Representatives in Passing Legislation to Establish September 11 as a National Day of Service

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate today joined with the U.S. House of Representatives in passing historic national service legislation (ServeAmerica Act S. 277) which, like the House GIVE Act, includes a key provision that would formally authorize federal support for establishing the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America as a "National Day of Service and Remembrance." U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) worked closely with U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), co-sponsors of the ServeAmerica Act, to include language supporting the 9/11 Day of Service observance, a program long advocated by the organization. The 9/11 nonprofit organization was founded in 2002 with widespread support from the 9/11 family community to establish September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Now passed, the House and Senate bills will proceed to conference to reconcile any differences. A final bill approved by both houses of Congress is expected to be delivered to President Barack Obama for his signature within days.

"For more than seven years, we have worked along with many 9/11 families, first responders, volunteers, and rescue and recovery workers with the hope that one day we would be able to formally establish 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance," said David Paine, founder and president of "Today we stand just a pen stroke away from creating a historic observance that ensures that the lives of those lost are forever remembered in a constructive and compassionate way by millions of people for generations to come."

"I could not be more proud to work to pass this important provision," said Senator Schumer in a press release ( "September 11 should not only be a day for mourning - it should be a day to think about our neighbors, our community and our country. We can take a tragic day in our nation's history and turn it into a force for good."

A New Catalyst for Volunteerism

Under both the House and Senate bills, the anniversary of 9/11 would annually be observed in ways similar to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Individuals, employees, students, members of organizations and others would voluntarily engage in service and remembrance through acts of good deeds, personal and organized service activities and reflection. However, the anniversary of 9/11 would intentionally not be a federal holiday - rather than a traditional day off, it would be a day devoted to community service and other acts of goodwill.

"We are confident that establishing 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance will play a major role in further energizing volunteerism in America, while also bringing a sense of national healing to one of the worst human tragedies in U.S. history," said Jay S. Winuk, co-founder and vice president of, and brother of attorney and 9/11 rescuer Glenn J. Winuk, a firefighter/EMT who perished when the World Trade Center's South Tower collapsed., a 501c(3) charitable organization based in New York, has lead the seven-year effort to establish 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Each year organizes activities that encourage individuals and organizations to set aside time on the anniversary of 9/11 to perform simple acts of good deeds and service that help others in need. Along with Senator Schumer, U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY) has been a vocal advocate of the Day of Service initiative and serves as co-chair of MyGoodDeed's Congressional Advisory Board.

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9/11 Families Urge Judge to Release Aviation Security Evidence on Terrorist Attacks

/PRNewswire / -- Calling for truth, rather than secrecy, to be the legacy of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, attorneys for a group of 9/11 family members are presenting oral arguments today urging U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to release more than one hundred deposition transcripts and over a million pages of evidence relating to the aviation security failures resulting in the worst terrorist attack in American history.

In hearings being held in the September 11th litigation against the aviation industry, the families are arguing that public disclosure of these materials, which the defendants are trying to keep confidential, will strengthen our security and provide the public with vital information without compromising the defendants' proprietary interests. They are joined in their motion by The New York Times Company and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

"This is about completing the historical record of 9/11," said Mike Low of Batesville, Ark., father of Sara Low, 28, an American Airlines flight attendant who was on Flight 11 which struck the World Trade Center. "To learn all the lessons of this horrific day, to protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks, and to know the truth -- a foundation of our democracy -- this body of evidence should be available to all of the American people."

"I have the right to know why my mother was killed on September 11, 2001 and the American people have the right to know how our nation became so vulnerable," said Paul Keating of Ashland, Mass., son of Barbara Ann Keating, 72, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11. "This information will ensure transparency and accountability, and it will empower our country to prevent future attacks on our citizens."

"This motion has nothing to do with classified information and everything to do with the defendants' abuse of the confidentiality process," said Don Migliori of the law firm Motley Rice LLC, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "None of the evidence contested today has been designated as sensitive for aviation security purposes. Rather, the defendants are trying to protect themselves from public embarrassment and legal liability by claiming that release of virtually every document in question would violate trade secrets."

As an example that the defendants' claims are groundless, Migliori notes that the families have demanded answers to questions about the qualifications of the preboard screeners on duty on 9/11, including whether they met the minimum requirements of fluency in English, high school diplomas and clean criminal records. The families also have demanded information about the training of the preboard screeners and whether or not the items used to carry out the hijackings, as reported on each of the four flights, were permitted on board those planes. The answers to these questions, these families argue, need to be open to the public.

"The defendants' arguments are insulting to those families who took the risk and pursued litigation over the no-fault Victim's Compensation Fund," said Migliori. "Sweeping this evidence under the rug would deny accountability to the 9/11 family members, handicap our nation's ability to protect itself, undermine our democratic principles, and prevent historians today and in the future from writing the complete record of this tragic, pivotal event."

Today's hearing on the plaintiffs' motion to set aside the defendants' claims of confidentiality is part of In re: September 11 Litigation, pending before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The families allege that the aviation security in place on September 11, 2001 was grossly inadequate.

The families first sought to have the confidentiality order removed in 2007. On March 19, 2008, the request was withdrawn as both sides tried to negotiate a resolution. That effort failed and the families renewed their motion on January 14, 2009. The New York Times Company and the RCFP moved for leave to intervene on January 21, 2009. Judge Hellerstein's ruling on the motion being argued today is expected soon.

"My daughter was a hero," said Low. "I learned only through this litigation and only in the last three months that, in her last terrifying moments, Sara stayed calm, tended to passengers and co-workers, and made sure that authorities on the ground knew what was happening on board. If Judge Hellerstein supports our motion, her legacy will be part of the history books. I can't think of anything more fitting for this amazing young woman."

"My mother volunteered countless hours to make her community a better place to live," Keating said. "In that same tradition, our legal action and this motion are designed to make America a better place, because everyone will have the same access to the truth. The more we know, the stronger we are."

"By shining the light of public disclosure on the evidence developed in this historic case, Judge Hellerstein can ensure that the enduring legacy of In Re September 11 Litigation is to advance our nation's best traditions of openness, unity, and truth," Migliori said.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

What Is Terrorist Travel? Latest Installment in Video Series

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's refusal to even use the word "terrorism" in remarks prepared for a congressional hearing last week underlines the fact that she has yet to commit to upholding the laws that derive from the 9/11 Commission's recommendations on border security.

To highlight the importance of these measures, Janice Kephart has prepared the latest installment in her "Border Basics" educational video series, this one entitled "What Is Terrorist Travel?" Kephart, the Director of National Security Policy at the Center for Immigration Studies and former counsel to the 9/11 Commission, concludes that securing against terrorist travel is essential to eliminate the fraud that enables people to enter, stay, and work in this country for illegal purposes. The video can be viewed online at:

Among the laws based on 9/11 Commission recommendations which Napolitano is now responsible for are:

-- The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, requiring Americans and all
others to present a passport or biometric equivalent at the border.
-- US-VISIT, requiring certain non-American applicants for admission at
ports of entry to take biometric fingerprint and photos.
-- Security guidelines for countries participating in the Visa Waiver
Program that enables the United States to conduct preliminary vetting
of individuals before they arrive.
-- REAL ID, requiring identity verification and legal presence in order
for a state-issued driver license or ID to be acceptable for federal
purposes like boarding airplanes.
-- E-Verify, a highly successful program shown to be 99.5 percent
accurate that helps employers comply with federal law by verifying the
identity and work authorization of new hires.

Verifying identity, authenticating travel documents, and assuring legal status to live and work in the United States have all proven their worth in improving security. Since terrorists exploit many of the same border vulnerabilities as identity thieves, drug runners, alien smugglers, and illegal aliens to enter and stay in the United States illicitly, it is imperative that the lessons learned and reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission remain on the front burner of policy development. And yet solid programs that work to expose, deter, and arrest fraud are at risk of stagnating or even being rolled back.

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