Debra Burlingame: ‘Those interrogators, CIA case officers are patriots’

Debra Burlingame was interviewed on WMAL radio this morning about her confronting Barack Obama during a meeting at Ground Zero. She explained her reasons for asking the President to express his opinion to Attorney General about dropping the investigation of CIA officers who conducted the enhanced interrogations of detainees:

Try as they might, the Obama administration can not deny the courier was first identified and determined to be a valuable person to find and follow in the hunt for Osama bin Laden during those enhanced interrogations.

Debra Burlingame on Ground Zero meeting with President Obama and CIA interrogations investigation

Debra Burlingame was one of fifty 9/11 family members who met in a closed-door meeting with President Barack Obama today near Ground Zero. She asked him, considering that by all reports the enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees was “part of the mosaic” of the intelligence that led to Osama bin Laden, if he would at least give his opinion to Attorney General Eric Holder about dropping the investigation of CIA interrorgators. President Obama replied, “No, I won’t.” Here is the video of her Fox News interview:

James Cole DAG nominee ‘aggressive demilitarizing of the war': Debra Burlingame

Debra Burlingame spoke with talk radio host Steve Malzberg yesterday after the Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing of James Cole to become the Deputy Attorney General of the United States:

“[James Cole's] client was Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Foreign Minister who ran the Al Haramain charity, this huge Saudi “charity” was shut down by the Treasury Department in 2004 — and we haven’t been able to confirm that it was shut down. … They gave millions of dollars to terrorists; they supported al Qaeda before 9/11 and after 9/11 … This is a huge, huge conflict of interest because how is this man going to be investigating, prosecuting, detaining, and interrogating the people who in fact are his former clients?”

Here is the full audio of the interview:

To be fair to both Malzberg and the “feckless Republicans” he spoke of, Senator Jeff Sessions made a noble effort within the too few minutes available to him, the nomination was only announced the day before, and committee Democrats consumed two-thirds of the 2-hour hearing with glowing adoration for James Cole, potshots at the previous administration, and posturing on other matters. (Senators Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse would willingly submit to months of continuous waterboarding before asking even one probing question of a Democrat President’s nominee.) There was a lot of ground to cover with Cole and not nearly enough time to cover it all. Still, Senator Lindsay Graham came to the hearing with a rubber stamp “yea” vote for Cole and his C-SPAN “thoughtful” face set to further his own agenda: horse trading the closing of Gitmo for passage into law of his vision of the legal war against terror.

You can watch the replay of the hearing here.

AG Eric Holder defends the wrong ‘kids’

Eric Holder alleges that American lawyers are “patriots” if they defend terrorists, to include those who murdered the eight children pictured above — the eight kids that al Qaeda murdered on 9/11. He asserts those lawyers should not have “their reputations dragged through the mud.”

Andy McCarthy took issue Friday with Wednesday’s testimony by Eric Holder before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

So now we know why the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in American history” continues to stonewall rather than reveal the official responsibilities of Justice Department lawyers who volunteered their services to America’s enemies during wartime. Like any good Democrat, Eric Holder says he is doing it for the children.

The attorney general bristled during Senate testimony on Wednesday that he was “not going to allow these kids” to have their reputations dragged “through the mud.” The “kids” coddled in this touching paternal display include 45-year-old Tony West, who now supervises hundreds of lawyers as chief of DOJ’s Civil Division. It’s been 17 years since Tony the Kid first served as an influential official in the Clinton Justice Department. From there, he went on to nine-year stint as a hot-shot partner at a prestigious San Francisco law firm — in his spare time running both Barack Obama’s lavish presidential campaign in California and the defense of John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban” convicted on terrorism charges after making war on his country.

They grow up so quickly, don’t they? Kids like 40-year-old Neal Katyal, the current deputy solicitor general who, as Byron York observes, was a Georgetown law professor when he volunteered to represent Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s personal driver and bodyguard, who was apprehended transporting missiles in Afghanistan.

Then there’s precocious 38-year-old Jennifer Daskal. Over Holder’s dead body will anyone drag her reputation through the mud, insinuating that she spent her pre-DOJ years cheerleading for terrorists and running down her country when, in point of fact, Daskal spent her pre-DOJ years … cheerleading for terrorists and running down her country.

Yet McCarthy also pointed out the failure to press Holder:

Republicans sat mum as their Democratic counterparts lauded the Gitmo Bar for its “courage” and falsely accused critics of claiming that lawyers who flocked to al-Qaeda’s service are “disqualified” from future government service. Mightn’t one GOP senator have pointed out that critics are simply demanding the transparency and accountability that President Obama and his attorney general promised? They certainly seemed to have reservoirs of indignation when Al Gonzales was attorney general. … READ THE REST

Why is Holder hiding the “kids” at the Justice Department? Could it be that they themselves damaged their own reputations by the manner they so “bravely” and willingly defended America’s enemies?

Debra Burlingame and Thomas Joscelyn recently wrote in The Weekly Standard of Daskal’s “heroics”:

On November 2, 2005, Dana Priest of the Washington Post reported that the “CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe.” The Post, citing the government’s security concerns, did not name the countries where the facilities were located. But just a few days later, on November 6, 2005, Human Rights Watch revealed the countries in a posting on its website. The organization said it had “collected information that CIA airplanes traveling from Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004 made direct flights to remote airfields in Poland and Romania.” The organization encouraged European officials to investigate further, and the Europeans did just that.

In May 2006, the European parliament sent a delegation to Washington to discuss the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program with various interested parties. The delegation met with Human Rights Watch on May 10. Here is how a document produced by the European parliament describes the meeting:

The delegation met with John SIFTON (Counterterrorism Researcher) and Jennifer DASKAL (US Advocacy Director) who provided the delegation with circumstantial evidence linking Poland and Romania to secret CIA prisons, including flight records, statements by Polish and Romanian government officials, as well as precise details of specific planes used by the CIA. Both recognized that they do not have formal evidence of these allegations, but stressed the indications of these facts were actually very strong. Their information was that there had been detainees in CIA custody well before the Guantánamo Bay detention center had been established.

Although the Europeans listed Daskal’s colleague, John Sifton, as a “counterterrorism researcher,” he was really researching the CIA—not the terrorists. In The Guantánamo Lawyers, a collection of short, sentimental memoirs written by dozens of lawyers, who sanitized their clients’ histories and glorified their work on behalf of war on terror detainees, Sifton offered an intriguing account of how Human Rights Watch assisted in uncovering details of the CIA’s operations.

“Throughout the years after 2001, journalists, human rights investigators, and lawyers managed to obtain a surprising amount of information about U.S. detention and interrogation operations,” Sifton wrote. He elaborated (emphasis added):

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the [New York] Times found and interviewed former CIA detainees. FOIA litigation by the Associated Press, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights produced information about former CIA detainees at Guantánamo—lower-level prisoners who had been kept short-term in CIA detention. Every piece of the story seemed to come from a different source. . . .

Lawyers and human rights groups worked together, sharing “intelligence” to uncover what intelligence agencies were doing with detainees. When I was working at Human Rights Watch, I managed to piece together a good deal of information about the CIA’s detention facilities in Afghanistan by collecting accounts from former CIA detainees at Guantánamo, mostly from notes provided by habeas attorneys. I called and met with numerous Guantánamo attorneys to inquire whether their clients had been in CIA custody. In several instances, attorneys I reached were not aware that their clients had been in CIA custody until I explained that their clients’ own accounts matched those of other CIA detainees. In one notable example, I spoke with one of the editors of this book, Mark Denbeaux, after I came to suspect his client had been in a secret site in Afghanistan—the detainee had described one of his earlier places of detention in ways that closely matched other detainees’ descriptions of a CIA site in Afghanistan. The next time Mark went to Guantánamo, he confirmed this previously secret fact with the detainee.

Human Rights Watch published Sifton’s investigation of the CIA’s detention facilities in Afghanistan in a February 2007 report entitled “Ghost Prisoner.” The report draws on graphic descriptions offered by former detainees. That same report was “reviewed and edited” by Jennifer Daskal.

The America people have a right to know whether “heroes” and “patriots,” like Jennifer Daskal, are involved in formulating the detention policy of the United States and decisions on where and whether to prosecute war criminals. Eric Holder ought to disclose the information about the “kids” for the real children, the ones al Qaeda has already murdered, as well as those they are still trying to kill.

We need a ‘Rule of War Act’ (Graham negotiating 9/11 trial, Obama steps in, paging C-SPAN)

Colleagues of Senator Lindsay Graham have leaked that he and the White House are negotiating over where and how to conduct the 9/11 trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators. In additional, President Barack Obama will apparently take a personal role in the negotiations and may overrule Attorney General Eric Holder’s decisions to this point.

We need a statute, a ‘Rule of War Act’, with no special date, sunset provisions, or naming it after some personage or group.

It would be the civilian authority providing for the common defense, while informed by the governed.

First, the entire negotiation and [formalized, federal debate *] needs conducted in the open — televised on C-SPAN — over the course of this year.

The top issues should be placed in simply, uniform terms on the November 2 national election ballot to express the people’s will. Congress should then create the statute in 2011 and the President can veto or sign it.

We should learn from the past, cover those enemies we now detain, and keep in mind this war may take some time and there will be future wars.

Here is my further two cents, my general thoughts on the statute’s provisions, for what they are worth.

When enemy war criminals are captured, we should prosecute them by military tribunal solely based upon our national security, what protects our people;

Lawful enemy belligerents should be detained for as long as hostilities last;

Unlawful enemy belligerents should be detained for as long as each remains a threat;

America’s foreign enemies should be afforded none of our Constitutional rights;

The Judiciary’s sole role should be classified detention review akin to determining probable cause;

and all long-term enemy detentions should take place isolated far from the civilian populace.


Note: * revised text.

New York Daily News: Keep 9/11 trial ‘the hell out’ of New York City (we say ‘not in America’)

The New York Daily News nearly matched their title ‘Keep the hell out: Obama must stop waffling and move 9/11 terror trial’ with the content of their editorial:

One of the most astonishing aspects of Obama’s struggle to find a location for perhaps the most important trial in American history is that the Justice Department got around to considering those “practical, logistical issues” only after Attorney General Eric Holder decided on New York.

Without consulting Mayor Bloomberg or Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in advance.

Without figuring the cost of security, estimated at $200 million a year, or making provision to pick up the city’s tab.

Without taking into account the extreme, long-term disruptions a trial would visit on downtown neighborhoods.

Without remembering the elemental truth that New Yorkers refuse to be played for chumps — a fact that puts Obama deep in the hole.

We’d be near full agreement with the Daily News had they not hedged by using ‘preferably’ in their closing line.

Since AG Eric Holder’s November 13, 2009 announcement, all major, national polls have shown a wide majority of Americans think that not only should the 9/11 trial not be conducted in New York City, foreign terrorists should not be afforded the Constitutional rights a federal court trial would provide them. Yes, some politicians would foolishly endanger the safety of their constituents and disrupt thousands of lives in their communities for years by inviting terror trials and detentions; they are the exception, not the rule.

Gitmo is no “black eye” on America; it is a uniquely suited, heavily defended, remote terrorist detention facility. Last year, during a meeting with 9/11 and U.S.S. Cole families, President Obama said Gitmo has been “confused with Abu Ghraib.” Our troops there are closely supervised by the DOJ and highly disciplined. The propaganda from the Left and al Qaeda would only move to the new locale if it is closed.

DOD sources have told us that had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four fellow 9/11 conspirators been allowed to plead guilty and refused to appeal, the remaining prosecution costs for them would have been approximately $50,000. Had they not pled guilty and if they and all the other prosecutions were done by military commission at Gitmo, it would likely add tens of millions of additional dollars. Yet the total costs of prosecuting and detaining those now at Gitmo in the United States would run into the billions of dollars.

Detaining America’s enemies should never become a jobs program. Our valiant troops are already doing that tough and thankless duty for a hell of a lot less; it costs $100 million per year to operate the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Thomson Correctional Center alone will cost three times that much to purchase and twice as much to operate as a detention facility.

Last February, President Obama promised 9/11 and U.S.S. Cole families that “swift and certain justice” would be brought against those who had slaughtered our loved ones. Yet no one credible has disputed former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White saying it will likely take three years just to prepare federal trials against the 9/11 conspirators. And last July, it was reported that military commissions for 66 detainees there were ready to proceed. Even with the revisions Congress made to military commissions, which the President signed into law this past October, they would surely get underway much sooner, at Gitmo, than by a federal trial.

We keep hearing that military commissions are untested. They’ve been around in some form since General George Washington used them during the Revolutionary War. Lincoln used them. Not including the Nurnberg trials, more than 1,100 were tried by military tribunal during and after WWII with an 89% conviction rate. The judges, lawyers on both sides, and legal assistants are well-experienced at conducting military trials.

What is really untested is successfully trying dozens of Gitmo’s terrorists in federal court, with trial and appeal judges accustomed to applying our Constitution. Why? Because there will be hundreds perhaps thousands of motions about delaying “their” speedy trial due to national security concerns, not reading them “their” rights, and not offering them “their” right to remain silent and the opportunity to speak with “their” attorneys before deciding if to speak at all. And here is news that perhaps you have read nowhere else: All those same Constitutional challenges would occur if military commissions are conducted on U.S. soil.

Non-New Yorkers are also not chumps.

With thanks for their editorial and due respect to the New York Daily News, the vast majority of those out here in fly-over country say no federal trial for those at Gitmo should ever happen inside the United States; all their trials should be by military commission, at Guantanamo Bay.

Moving danger? So what if Obama is reconsidering moving 9/11 trials

“In what communities in the United States of America are children required to walk by military conveys and snipers on a daily basis on their way to school?” — unidentified lower Manhattan resident, addressing New York City’s Community Board 1 meeting, January 27, 2010, just before the Board voted 42 to 0 to ask the Obama administration to move the 9/11 trials.

Be very skeptical of reports saying the Obama administration is “strongly” considering moving the 9/11 trials out of lower Manhattan. Otherwise, this CBS report fairly describes what is going on. (My fellow co-founders of the 9/11 Never Forget Coalition, Debra Burlingame in cameo and Tim Brown briefly interviewed, appear within it):

Taking on the task of hosting the 9/11 terror trials and housing indefinitely detained terrorists in Newburgh, NY and Thomson, IL, respectively, outwardly appear as economic boons to those desperate economies. Why should the danger just be shifted from Chinatown and lower Manhattan to somewhere else? It would not solve the national security risks of a federal trial. It moves the danger to ill-equipped rural civilian populaces. It does nothing to lower the billion dollar cost for both the trial and detention. (The annual operating cost of the detention facility at Gitmo is $100 million.)

Congress must fix the law. It must restore national security solely to the elected branches, remove judges from the conduct of war, prosecute war criminals while protecting our secrets, detain captured enemies for as long as necessary, and isolate detainees from any civilian populace. Those are the things an overwhelming majority of Americans want done.

Barring those steps being codified in statute, terror trials and detentions should remain at Guantanamo. This is not a pipe dream yet it will not get done if America is lolled back to sleep thinking “we won” because the Obama administration is reportedly “strongly” considering moving the trials. To put it another way, I’ll remind you of an old Army axiom to troops: Stay alert; stay alive.

Obama adminstration ‘suspends’ Gitmo transfers to Yemen, might go to Thomson

At least 74 former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield. A dozen of those released to Saudi Arabia and Yemen are members of al Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) and two of them are key leaders believed to have been involved in Umar Farook Abdulmuttalab’s attempt to blow Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from the sky on Christmas Day.

President Barack Obama has released some of Gitmo’s most infamous detainees. His first release was dirty-bomb trained Binyam Mohamed who was arrested in a Pakistani airport in 2002 as he attempted to fly to America to join Jose Padilla. Just last month, the administration released 6 to Yemen, including Ayman Batarfi, a known al Qaeda doctor who attended to wounded jihadists during the battle of Tora Bora, met with bin Laden at Tora Bora, and has admitted ties to al Qaeda’s anthrax program.

How foolish.

Today, the White House announced it would “suspend” the transfer of detainees to Yemen:

The U.S. will not transfer any detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Yemen right now, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Ninety detainees in Gitmo are from Yemen, which is combating a resurgent Al Qaeda. A delayed return could mean they will end up in a federal prison in Thomson, Illinois, Gibbs said.

“One of the very first things Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula used as a tool was Gitmo,” Gibbs said. “We’re not going to make transfers to a country like Yemen that they’re not capable of handling (the detainees). While we remain committed to closing the detention facility, the determination has been made that right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea.”

The remaining 90 Yemeni detainees are among the worst of the worst. Our stateside prisons are secure yet not nearly as secure and isolated as Guantanamo Bay. The real risk of moving detainees from Gitmo to Thomson is it would needlessly endanger those who would guard them, their families, and innocent civilians in the surrounding area. The murdering comrades of the Yemeni detainees will stop at nothing to at least make a statement in blood on U.S. soil.

To be clear, we should keep Gitmo open and leave al Qaeda’s killers there to rot.

Click on image below to view a pdf side-by-side comparison of Gitmo to Thomson