Published January 25, 2009
NEW YORK -- Three families of firefighters killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 want to meet with President Barack Obama to urge him to reverse his decision to suspend the trial of five detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who admit roles in the terror attacks.
In a meeting with reporters at their attorney's office on Sunday, the families deplored what they called "delays and confusion" in the former Bush administration's effort to prosecute suspects in the 2001 attacks, which killed about 3,000 people, saying they want "a firm commitment" that the same process won't continue under Obama.
"Seven and a half years is a very long time for 3,000 families to wait," said Maureen Santora, whose son was among the 343 firefighters killed when the twin towers collapsed after being struck by two hijacked jetliners. Nearly 2,800 people were killed at the World Trade Center, another 184 when a third hijacked jetliner struck the Pentagon and 40 when a fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa. The totals don't include the 19 hijackers.
Along with Santora and her husband, Al Santora, a retired deputy fire chief, the delegation included retired deputy chief Jim Riches and his wife, Rita Riches, whose son was killed on Sept. 11, and Sally Regenhard, whose son also perished at the trade center.
The families' position was spelled out in a brief letter mailed Sunday to Obama, requesting a meeting "at your earliest convenience."
There was no immediate comment from the White House on Sunday.
Obama, in his first week in office, ordered the Guantanamo Bay prison closed within a year, CIA secret prisons shuttered and abusive interrogations ended.
The families' attorney, Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, noted that Obama, along with announcing his intention to close the prison in eastern Cuba, declared a 120-day cooling-off period to study how to proceed with trials of those suspected of taking part in terrorist acts against the United States.
Siegel said the administration of former President George W. Bush had "screwed up every possible option" for swift and effective prosecution of the Sept. 11 terrorists in part by creating a Military Commission to try the suspects that subsequently was ruled unconstitutional in some respects by the U.S. Supreme Court.