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Kristen Breitweiser Headshot

The Sad Defeat of Our Constitution

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Today I was given two hours of "advance notice" regarding DOJ's decision to not prosecute the remaining alleged 9/11 conspirators in an open court of law. According to DOJ's statement, the remaining individuals will be sent to military tribunals.

I recognize that there are many, many other things for Americans to be upset with today, but I hope everyone can take a second to contemplate this decision and recognize what it says about President Obama, the Department of Justice, and the United States.

As for the Department of Justice, it shows their inability to prosecute individuals who are responsible for the death of 3,000 people on the morning of 9/11. Apparently our Constitution and judicial system -- two of the very cornerstones that make America so great and used to set such a shining example to the rest of the world -- are not adequately set up to respond to or deal with the aftermath of terrorism. To me, this is a startling and dismal acknowledgment that perhaps Osama Bin Laden did, in fact, win on the morning of 9/11. And chillingly, I wonder whether it wasn't just the steel towers that were brought down and incinerated on 9/11, but the yellowed pages of our U.S. Constitution, as well.

And what does it say about the solemn capabilities of our Department of Justice if it is left to "subcontract out" its duties and responsibilities to the Department of Defense? We should all think about that scary notion for a bit. But, perhaps more disturbingly recognize that it is not occurring under the tutelage of Bush and Cheney, rather it is coming at the hands of Obama.

At least when President Bush was in office, he was candid about his feelings regarding the alleged 9/11 conspirators in our custody. He didn't care about them. He allowed them to be tortured. He was fine letting them rot in the heat of Guantanamo for all of eternity. They were less than human to him and he certainly was never going to afford them the benefits of our U.S. Constitution or the Geneva Conventions. That was President Bush. Whether you agreed or disagreed with him, you, at least, knew where he stood. And you could, like it or not, rely on his word.

For the past two years, it's been President Obama in the Oval Office. Quite early on in his presidency, Obama invited the 9/11 families to the White House to discuss 9/11-related issues. During this meeting in Feb '09 the topic of closing Guantanamo and the use of Article 3 courts to prosecute the remaining alleged 9/11 conspirators was discussed. Many of us were incredibly relieved to learn that as a matter of course President Obama was going to shut down Guantanamo and support the open prosecution of the alleged 9/11 conspirators. He gave us -- the various widows and children at the meeting -- his golden word. He shook our hands. He smiled broadly. He posed for pictures. (In fact, several weeks later many of the widows even received hand signed courtesy copies of these photos from Obama -- a nice touch. I did not receive such a photo.)

It's been almost ten years now since my husband was killed. My daughter has gone from a 2-year-old to a 12-year-old. Our country has started two -- and now maybe three -- pointless, misguided, costly wars. And if it wasn't already difficult enough to accept that Osama Bin Laden will probably never be caught or held accountable, now I have to swallow the fact that I will never see constitutional justice for the handful of individuals we actually hold in custody. In short, justice in a court of law for the murder of my husband and 3,000 others will never come.

I suppose in life timing is everything. To me, as a lawyer and a 9/11 widow, DOJ's announcement today acknowledges the sad defeat of our U.S. Constitution when it comes to 9/11. How truly tragic in my eyes. And you would think that a man who was once a constitutional law professor might feel the same way. Yet, not so much for President Barack Obama who has chosen this great day to announce his billion-dollar campaign for re-election. His slogan asking us to "join in" by writing him a check.

First, I've never been much of an "in"-sider. Second, I truly wonder how you can trust a leader who carries no compunction to keep his promises or his word -- whether those words and promises were made in support of gay rights, to not start or perpetuate illegal/useless/costly military campaigns (or wars), in support of environmental causes even to the detriment of big business, to put an immediate end to torture and unlawful detainment, to rein in the bloat and greed of Wall Street, to oppose gun control, or to correct the broad overreach of a previous administration.

But perhaps most pointedly, if you can't trust what a man says to a group of widows and children, then what words and promises of his can you trust?

So President Obama, am I IN? Will you be receiving my check?

Hell no.

Because I'm tired of gambling on your hope, believing in your promises, and being thrown under your bus.

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