Thursday, May 5, 2011

9/11 Kin Want Trials Now

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For a small group of Sept. 11 families, Thursday's visit to Ground Zero will serve as a fresh chance to press President Barack Obama on their long-frustrated desire to see trials of terrorist suspects begin.

Getty Images

Carie Lemack, center, at a ceremony Monday in Boston.

It may be one of the few issues on which there is still widespread agreement among 9/11 families, a group of thousands of people with many diverging opinions.

Days after U.S. special forces killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Mr. Obama comes for his first visit to Ground Zero as president. In addition to meeting families, Mr. Obama will lay a wreath at the 9/11 memorial that will open there in September.

The New York Police Department has been in a heightened state of security since the president on Sunday evening announced bin Laden's death. The added security precautions will continue until after Mr. Obama's visit, police spokesman Paul Browne said.

Mr. Obama has invited dozens of Sept. 11 relatives to meet with him Thursday. "I've been asking for timely and transparent trials for nine years,'' said Carie Lemack, whose mother died aboard one of the hijacked flights. She will be at Ground Zero Thursday.

Mr. Obama met with some Sept. 11 families in the White House in February 2009, at the very beginning of his presidency.

"One of the things President Obama promised at the meeting back then was swift justice—I believe those were his words,'' said Peter Gadiel, whose 23-year-old son James Gadiel worked on the 103rd floor of the north tower. Mr. Gadiel has been critical of all three presidents who have grappled with the threat from al Qaeda, but he said the delays in trials stand out as a particularly egregious problem. He said he isn't going to Thursday's event because he views it as a political event.

Getty Images

Peter Gadiel

In the Bush years, Democrats questioned the integrity and effectiveness of trying al Qaeda suspects before military tribunals. When Mr. Obama became president, he vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and bring some of those detainees to face trial in U.S. federal courts. That plan backfired when New York politicians balked at hosting a trial of the accused Sept. 11 conspirators. After more than a year of inaction, the Justice Department recently said it would proceed instead with military tribunals against those detainees.

When exactly they will start—or how long they will take—is still unclear.

"It upsets me greatly that politicians from both sides of the aisle have politicized what needs to be a murder trial," said Ms. Lemack. "This is about nearly 3,000 Americans who lost their lives that day, and they need the justice system to work for them like it does for any other American."

Trials aren't the only issue for Sept. 11 families. Some want to make sure that the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero has the financial and political support to succeed.

Anthoula Katsimatides, whose brother John died in the attacks, is now a 9/11 memorial board member. "I want him [the president] to see the progress that's gone on downtown. I'm looking forward to shedding some light on the memorial and museum as a national museum,'' she said.

Write to Devlin Barrett at

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