Terry Rockefeller spoke at the Guantánamo Anniversary Rally in DC on January 11, 2018
When the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11,
2001, my sister Laura was on the 106th floor. But as I stand before you, more than 16
years later, I do not want your condolences or sympathy, I want your OUTRAGE!
The U.S. had an opportunity to confront the international criminals responsible for the
9/11 attacks and uphold the Rule of Law.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows organized in 2002 because we believed
that the facts about why and how 9/11 was carried out could help us prevent future
attacks. We believed not only family members, but all US citizens, indeed the entire
world – should watch the U.S. respond to this horrific crime with respect for the highest
standards of justice. We joined together because we rejected war and violence and we
believed that the rule of law was one of the greatest forces for NONVIOLENCE that
humanity has evolved.
But as we began to learn about the black sites and torture, we realized that powerful
people in our government did not agree that a fair and open trial of the 9/11 suspects
was a priority. And so now, what might justice look like?
For the past 5½ years, I have observed the Military Commissions that are preparing to
try the five men accused of organizing the 9/11 attacks. All too often the proceedings
have been marred by egregious irregularities, like the FBI attempting to plant an
informer inside one of the defense teams or the CIA cutting the audio feed in the
courtroom with its own secret censor button. But mostly the Commissions grind on
painfully slowly, because they are a makeshift, untested system. We could see the 20 th
anniversary of 9/11 before a trial even begins.
Brigadier General John Baker, Chief Defense Counsel at Guantanamo recently summed
up the failure of the Military Commissions as QUOTE “a legacy of uncertainty,
government misconduct, and torture.” UNQUOTE
There are profound tensions between the government’s “national security”
requirements for secrecy and the requirements of a fair trial. And the issue of torture
hangs over every aspect of the proceedings.
My profound thanks go out to General Baker and to all the defense attorneys working
under him—they are the ones fighting to maintain any semblance of legitimacy in the
process of bringing the 9/11 accused to justice.
But what is taking place at Guantanamo is, I believe, an exercise in delay and
obfuscation. The Military Commissions must be shut down. The trial should be moved
to Federal court, where more than 600 terrorism-related cases have been successfully
tried since 9/11.
And, I would advocate that because of the extensive evidence of how the 9/11 suspects
were tortured, the government must abandon its efforts to win a death sentence. We
could then hear the evidence and hear from the accused themselves. We might learn a
great deal. And it might make anyone contemplating the use of torture in the future
think a bit harder! THANK YOU.