In the News
July 24, 2009
Task Force Formed to Review Homeland Security Advisory System
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the creation of a task force which will evaluate the efficacy of the Homeland Security Advisory System over a 60-day period. The task force is comprised of a wide variety of elected officials, security experts and other professionals, including VOICES of September 11th’s Founding Director, and is designed to analyze the current system and suggest improvements. After completing their review, the task force will present its findings to Secretary Napolitano, who will then discuss the findings with other Cabinet officials in order to suggest a course of action to the White House. To read more, click here.
Daily News Hopes Kathleen Sibelius Will Hear 9/11 Responder’s Call
May 04, 2009
In a poignant editorial, the Daily News, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for its series “"9/11: The Forgotten Victims” about the medical fallout from the World Trade Center attacks, has written a plea to new Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the 9/11 health crisis. The paper tells the story of Fire Lt. Martin Fullam, who recently received a lung transplant as a result of his exposure to toxic dust during rescue and recovery operations. To read the editorial, click here.
Guantanamo Military Tribunals Still Possible
May 04, 2009
Military tribunals to prosecute Guantanamo detainees may still occur, despite heavy criticism by many including President Obama. Officials are concerned it will be difficult to prosecute the detainees in the federal court system, considering the harsh interrogation techniques utilized in the past, as well as having to publicize classified material. Read more at the NY Times and the Washington Post.
In a related story, the Obama Administration is having difficulty placing dangerous detainees. See the NY Times.
The 9/11 Living Memorial Project
May 03, 2009
VOICES of September 11th launched the 9/11 Living Memorial in September 2006 to commemorate all those affected by the tragic events at the World Trade Center (both in 2001 and 1993), the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA. It is our hope to provide not only solace but also historical context. Future generations must know more than facts and data; victims’ stories are vivid reminders of our shared humanity.
We are asking everyone with memories to share—of family members or friends lost, of experiences that fateful day—for their contributions. The 9/11 Living Memorial is a dynamic, web-based archive that chronicles victims’ and survivors’ lives with stories, photographs, and mementoes of all kinds.
The Star-Ledger recently profiled the 9/11 Living Memorial Project in a moving article. To learn more about the process, and the impact, of this important historical initiative, click here.
A Tree Grows in the Bronx…Symbolizing Resilience after 9/11
April 30, 2009
A pear tree severely disfigured during the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and later transplanted in the Bronx is now in glorious form, flowering beautifully…a powerful symbol of renewal and hope in the face of tragedy. The “survivor tree,” as it has come to be known, will be moved once again in two years time to the plaza of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, where it will join hundreds of other trees as part of a living memorial. To read more, visit the NY Times.
9/11 Memorial & Museum Receives Major Grant from Swiss Foundation
April 30, 2009
The Starr International Foundation has provided the National September 11th Memorial & Museum with the first major gift in its international outreach effort: $1 million dollars. The Museum’s Chairman, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “We are thankful to the Starr International Foundation for their generous gift and continued support of the Memorial project. The events of 9/11 had tremendous global implications and it is important that the Museum tells this story.” To read the Museum’s press release, click here.
Volunteering at Voices
April 22, 2009
This is National Volunteer Week, a time when we acknowledge all those throughout the nation who devote time and effort to causes they believe in. The staff at VOICES is enormously grateful for the generosity of its own dedicated volunteers, whose contributions have been invaluable to the organization’s outreach, growth and influence. Their devoted service, at our annual September 10th and 11th events, 9/11 Living Memorial workshops or as board members and advisors, is crucial to the progress we have made, and the impact we have had.
Our volunteers have stories that are truly inspirational. We hope their experiences will motivate you to join our team as a volunteer yourself. Opportunities abound to share your talents, learn new skills, and impact others. To learn more about the wonderful people who have made such a difference at VOICES, click here.
Financial Aid Urged for Responders
April 22, 2009
In testimony on April 22, 2009, Congressional representatives urged colleagues to reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund to help thousands of responders and others who have developed 9/11-related illnesses since the fund closed in 2005. Read more at the Daily News.
President Signs Legislation Establishing 9/11 as Day of Service
April 21, 2009
On April 21, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which establishes September 11 as an annually recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance. The bill authorizes the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees federal national service programs, to make grants and provide other assistance to community nonprofits and other groups that want to organize 9/11 service and remembrance activities. To learn more, read the press release issued by MyGoodDeed.org, an advocacy organization that promoted the legislation.
President Obama Addresses Past CIA Practices
April 20, 2009
In the wake of revelations regarding harsh interrogation techniques employed by the CIA under the Bush Administration, President Obama visited the agency to reassure its employees that he will not blame them for following the legal advice they were given at the time. Critics are upset by the Obama Administration’s decision to release the information, which it did in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, while others were urging a more thorough investigation into the interrogation practices. Read more at the NY Times and the Washington Post.
An analysis of the history of the issue is available at the NY Times.
Report on “Rightwing Extremism” Generates Controversy
April 20, 2009
Homeland Security’s report entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" inspired a heated response when it was leaked shortly after April 7. See the NY Times. Now the Department of Homeland Security has indicated that objections by civil liberties officials were not heeded before the report was distributed, “a breakdown in an internal process.” Read more at Newsday.
Plans to Rebuild Ground Zero Affected by Recession
April 15, 2009
Ground Zero developer Larry A. Silverstein is tussling with the land’s owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, over how and when the planned office towers will be rebuilt. Negotiations became necessary as both sides grappled with the current economic climate, which has had a major effect on commercial real estate in Lower Manhattan, increasing the vacancy rate considerably. The Port Authority wants to keep the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and other public infrastructure on schedule, but postpone a large portion of the office space. Learn more at the NY Times.
Financial Firms Keep Pledges to 9/11 Museum
April 9, 2009
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum says that, while its $350 million capital fund-raising goal was achieved a year ago with the help of pledges from firms such as the American International Group (AIG) and Lehman Brothers, who are now struggling if not defunct, the Museum remains financially sound. Of the 81 contributors who pledged $1 million or more, 45 have paid at least half if not all of their pledges. Read more at the NY Times.
Majority Favor Obama Outreach to Muslims
April 6, 2009
A majority of Americans agree President Obama's desire to "seek a new way forward" with the international Muslim community world is an important aim, although many also have negative attitudes about Islam and its effects, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Read more at the Washington Post.
In a related story, the New Yorker analyses Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chances in his re-election campaign. The story includes a discussion of some Iranians’ beliefs as to the cause of 9/11.
Art Therapy for 9/11 First Responders
An art therapy group has been established to help 9/11 rescue and recovery workers deal with the trauma of their experiences. No artistic knowledge necessary. The sessions will take place on Saturdays from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm at New York University’s Barney Building, 34 Stuyvesant Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues), Room 204, New York, N.Y. For more information, please contact Ailish Coughlan, Licensed Creative Art Therapist at 917.519.4592 or email@example.com.
Beverly Eckert to be Honored during Arbor Day Celebration
A tree will be planted and dedicated in memory of 9/11 activist and VOICES co-founder Beverly Eckert, who died when Flight 3407 crashed in Buffalo, New York on February 12, 2009. The ceremony will take place during an Arbor Day celebration at the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame in Stamford, CT, and will begin at 11:00 am on Friday, April 24th, 2009. Please contact our office for more information.
Tuesday’s Children Honored Women of Strength
April 04, 2009
More than 110 people attended a Yale Club dinner held by the 9/11 advocacy organization Tuesday’s Children to honor five women “who have shown through their example that it is possible to not only be resilient in the face of loss, but to rise above it and become an inspiration for others.” The women were Abigail Carter, who wrote Alchemy of Loss; Christie Coombs, founder of The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation; Meaghan Coombs, creator of the Summer Ends Concert Series; Mary Fetchet, Founding Director of VOICES of September 11th; and Eileen Lynch, inspiration for and teacher of Creative Insight. Proceeds will support a wide range of programming for 9/11 family members. To learn more, visit Tuesday’s Children.
9/11 Victim Identified
April 01, 2009
The 1627th World Trade Center victim has been identified. Manuel Emilio Mejia, 54, was identified on March 26 on the basis of his personal possessions. The remains of 1,125 others who perished on 9/11 have not yet been identified. To learn more, visit Newsday.
Congress Passes GIVE Act
March 31, 2009
Congress has passed legislation that would designate September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act or GIVE Act (H.R. 1388) also provides federal support for many national service programs. Click here to learn more.
9/11 Health and Compensation Act Would Reopen Victim Compensation Fund
March 31, 2009
On March 31st, a hearing was held by a House Judiciary subcommittee regarding H.R. 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009. In a press release, Rep. Carolyn Maloney described the importance of the legislation, designed to address the health crisis caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The bill would provide medical monitoring and treatment to those affected by the toxic dust created when the World Trade Center collapsed. It would also reopen the federal Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to provide compensation for financial hardships caused by related illnesses or injuries. Rep. Maloney believes reopening the Fund would reduce or eliminate costly litigation; over 10,000 people are currently suing New York City and its contractors for damages sustained through the attacks. To read Rep. Maloney’s press release, click here.
To read accounts of the hearing, including pros and cons of reopening the Fund and details on responders who traveled to Washington in support of the legislation, read the NY Times and the Daily News.
Obama Administration Will No Longer Use Phrase “War on Terror”
March 30, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has confirmed that the Obama Administration, while not issuing an official directive, will refrain from using the term “War on Terror.” The phrase has been criticized by many in the international community, who find it too broad. To learn more, visit ABC News.
Controversy Surrounds Name for Ground Zero Site
March 28, 2009
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has elected to change the name of the tallest tower at the World Trade Center site currently under construction from the “Freedom Tower” to “1 World Trade Center.” Representatives for the authority said it will be easier to market the building using the latter name. However, debate has ensued, with many expressing their preference for “Freedom Tower,” as well as concerns about the renaming of the building to “1 World Trade Center.”
To learn more, read the NY Times and the Daily News.
Obama Administration Will Maintain Bush Focus on Counterterrorism
March 26, 2009
The White House has indicated that counterterrorism will remain the top priority of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, continuing the Bush Administration’s shift of resources away from conventional law enforcement. To learn more, visit the NY Times.
Responders Travel to DC on 3/31 in Support of 9/11 Health and Compensation Act
March 23, 2009
9/11 rescue and recovery workers, many of whom worked for months at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11, are traveling to Washington, DC on March 31 in support of H.R. 847, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill would provide medical monitoring and treatment to those who were exposed to toxins at the site. It would also reopen the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation to those who were harmed as an alternative to the current litigation system. To learn more about the bill, visit Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s site. To learn how you can join the responders, visit the FealGood Foundation.
Tuesday’s Children to Honor Women of Strength
The 9/11 advocacy organization Tuesday’s Children will be holding a dinner on Friday evening April 3 to honor five women “whose resilience, insight, imagination, and commitment have been an inspiration to many.” The women are Abigail Carter, who wrote Alchemy of Loss; Christie Coombs, founder of The Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation; Meaghan Coombs, creator of the Summer Ends Concert Series; Mary Fetchet, Founding Director of VOICES of September 11th; and Eileen Lynch, inspiration for and teacher of Creative Insight. Proceeds will support a wide range of programming for 9/11 family members. For tickets to the event, which will be held at the Yale Club, please visit Tuesday’s Children or call 516-562-9000.
9/11 Responders Hold Protest
March 20, 2009
Representatives of the NYC Coalition of Uniformed Services gathered at New York’s City Hall on March 19 to protest what they say is the Bloomberg administration’s position on claims filed for illness and injuries resulting from 9/11 rescue and recovery operations. The protesters contend the City wants to dismiss the claims of uniformed personnel because they are not entitled to workplace protection under state labor laws. The City says its motion did not ask for the dismissal of a single plaintiff’s case, and that the reaction to the motion that they filed highlights the need for legislation to reopen the federal Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation without the need for costly and divisive litigation. Read more at NY1
and the NY Post.
Some Guantanamo Detainees May Be Released in US
March 19, 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated some prisoners now detained at Guantanamo Bay may be released in the United States. The Obama Administration says firm decisions have not yet been made; they are considering a number of options, and are continuing to work with European allies who may also accept some detainees. Read more at the Wall Street Journal. 9/11 family members have expressed concern about the release of the detainees. The Times of London reports that a former Guantanamo detainee who was released to Afghan authorities in 2007 is now a Taliban commander in the Afghan province of Helmand. Read the story here.
GAO Describes Progress and Challenges in Screening Passenger Aircraft Cargo
March 18, 2009
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report detailing their observations on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) progress in meeting deadlines on passenger aircraft cargo screenings. Key steps have been taken to meet the statutory mandate, but challenges remain. To read highlights of the report, click here.
Church and Port Authority Reach Impasse on Rebuild
March 18, 2009
Eight months ago, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, had reached a tentative agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to rebuild on a larger piece of property. Last week, however, the Port Authority announced it would cease negotiations, as the two sides have been unable to agree on final terms. The Church retains the right to rebuild on its original lot. Church officials still hope talks will go on, but the Port Authority appears firm, since continuing negotiations will delay rebuilding other structures at the site. Read more at the New York Times.
National Cybersecurity Focus of Concern
March 17, 2009
In the days since President Obama launched a 60-day study of national cybersecurity (due in April), the issue has gained increasing prominence as officials struggle to decide how best to protect government computer networks from potentially disabling cyber attacks. In early March, Rod A. Beckstrom resigned his post as director of the National Cybersecurity Center, objecting to the large role of the National Security Agency. A week later, Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, who leads the Pentagon's Strategic Command, told Congress the US must protect against cyber attacks that "potentially threaten not only our military networks, but also our critical national networks." (Read more at the Washington Post.) Meanwhile the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report with suggestions for improving our national cybersecurity strategy. Click here to read the report.
1993 WTC Bombing Victim Awarded $5.4M
March 12, 2009
Former Deloitte & Touche manager Linda Nash, who sued the Port Authority over traumatic brain injuries she said she sustained in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, has been awarded $5.4 million dollars by the jury in the case. Read more at the Daily News.
Five Guantanamo Detainees Accept 9/11 Responsibility;
Decision to Release Their Pleading Criticized
March 11, 2009
Five men charged with planning the September 11th terrorist attacks have filed a document with the Guantanamo Bay military commission in which they accept responsibility with pride for the events that killed nearly 3000 people. Read more at the NY Times.
Defense counsel and civil liberties groups criticized the judge’s release of the detainees’ pleading, saying it violated President Obama’s order to stop all military commissions. See the Washington Post.
FY 2009 Spending Bill Includes $70 Million for 9/11 Health Programs
March 11, 2009
President Obama has signed an appropriations bill that includes $70 million for 9/11 health programs. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said that passage of the bill “will ensure that we can continue, without interruption, to monitor and treat first responders and community members living with 9/11-related illnesses.” Learn more at Rep. Nadler’s web site.
In a related development, the Daily News has written an editorial on trial dates set by a New York judge for workers who believe they became ill as a result of 9/11 rescue and recovery operations. To read the opinion, visit the Daily News.
House Considers Establishing 9/11 as National Day of Service
March 10, 2009
Legislation has been introduced to Congress that would designate September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act or GIVE Act (H.R. 1388) would also provide federal support for many national service programs. Read more in MyGoodDeed.org’s press release.
9/11 Recovery Workers: Remain Eligible for Workers’ Comp by Registering
New York City’s 9/11 Health web site reports that: “In general, workers must file claim within two years of the accident. Since 9/11 health-related conditions may not develop for many years, workers and volunteers who participated in WTC rescue and recovery operations can remain eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits if they register by September 11, 2010.” To learn more about filing 9/11-related workers’ compensation claims, visit New York City’s 9/11 Health page.
Artists Registry Established at National September 11 Memorial & Museum
A virtual art gallery has been established by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum “in response to the events of September 11 by members of a diverse artistic community ranging from seasoned professionals to individuals inspired, perhaps for the first time, to express their reactions to 9/11 through visual, tactile or auditory media.” All those moved to produce art in response to 9/11 are encouraged to participate. To learn more on how to contribute or the gallery in general, visit the Museum’s web site.
Beverly Eckert Remembered in Hometown of Stamford, CT
March 07, 2009
9/11 activist Beverly Eckert, who died when Flight 3407 crashed in Buffalo, NY last month, was honored by family, friends, colleagues and neighbors at a memorial service in her hometown of Stamford CT on March 7. Hundreds of people came to pay their respects at the Julia A. Stark School, where Ms. Eckert had volunteered as a tutor in the months before her death. Indeed, many acts of generosity and volunteerism were recalled during the service, for the 9/11 community and for other causes as well. Read more at the Stamford Advocate.
Exhibit Explores 9/11’s Impact on Immigrants
March 06, 2009
The Tribute WTC Visitors Center has a new exhibit that explores the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on immigrant communities. Entitled "Renewing our American Dream after 9/11," the show will run through October near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. To learn more, visit the Tribute WTC Visitors Center.
$500 Million Settlement in 9/11 Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Cases
March 05, 2009
A $500 million settlement has been reached regarding over 90 wrongful death and personal injury claims related to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Only three suits now remain to be settled. The lawsuits—against airlines, airport security firms and associated companies—were filed by people who did not participate in the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund instituted by Congress. For a summary of the story visit Reuters. For an in-depth discussion, particularly regarding how these settlements compare to compensation provided by the Victim Compensation Fund, visit the National Law Journal.
Craig Fugate to Lead FEMA
March 04, 2009
President Obama has chosen Craig Fugate to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fugate has served as director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management since 2001. To learn more, visit GovernmentExecutive.com.
FEMA Urges People with Special Needs to Prepare for Emergencies
March 02, 2009
Senior citizens and others with disabilities should prepare in advance in case disaster strikes. Plans should be developed with physicians and other providers so that prescription medications, special equipment and other needs are available during emergencies. For specific suggestions on steps to take in advance, visit FEMA.
Budget Proposal Includes Increase for DHS
February 27, 2009
President Obama’s first budget proposal, for Fiscal Year 2010, allocates $42.7 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—a figure that is six percent higher than the budget President Bush requested. Read more at HS Today.
1993 World Trade Center Bombing Commemorated
February 26, 2009
February 26th marked the 16th anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed 6 people and an unborn child. The solemn occasion was commemorated by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. To learn more, visit the Museum’s web site. In a related story, a woman who was injured during the bombing and is now suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey testified about her experience in court. To see her account, visit the Associated Press.
February 24, 2009
The Village Voice has written a detailed article on issues surrounding the controversial detention center at Guantanamo. To read their analysis, visit the Village Voice website.
GAO Issues Reports on Detainees’ Health Care and Nuclear Detection
February 23, 2009
The United States Government Accountability Office has issued a report on the health care provided to detainees that are held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 2007, ICE detained more than 311,000 people at 500 facilities. From 2004 through 2007, 69 detainees died in ICE custody. To access the report, which was written to address concerns raised by members of Congress, the media and advocacy organizations, visit the GAO.
The GAO has also issued a report regarding U.S. nuclear detection capabilities, needed in order to combat nuclear smuggling. The report is available at the GAO.
In a related story, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has stated that the U.S. will be unable to meet a 2012 deadline to screen cargo for radiological and nuclear materials. Click here to learn more.
Guantanamo Detainee Released
February 22, 2009
Binyam Mohamed, a detainee who has been in American custody for seven years, has been released and returned to Britain. In 2002, he was accused of attempting to set a dirty bomb in the United States. During his incarceration, he said he had been tortured while in CIA custody—allegations the CIA denies. Sources say he has agreed to certain voluntary restrictions on his release, including a lifetime prohibition on travel to the United States. See the NY Times. In a related development, a French appeals court has overturned the 2007 convictions of five former Guantanamo detainees, who were tried after their release and return to France. The appeals court ruled that interrogation methods at Guantanamo violated French rules for gathering evidence. Read the NY Times. The Times also indicates that a report ordered by President Obama on conditions at Guantanamo has been criticized by human rights activists and lawyers. The report, by Pentagon official Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, says conditions at Guantanamo are currently humane and in compliance with the Geneva Conventions. However, lawyers for detainees and human rights groups dispute his conclusions, one contending conditions “are worse than they have ever been.” Details at the NY Times.
America’s Camp Serves Kids Who’ve Lost Parents on 9/11, and Others
America's Camp is a one-week sleep away camp for children who lost a parent or sibling as a result of the attacks on September 11 and for children or siblings of firefighters and law enforcement officers lost in the line of duty at any time. Enrollment has begun for this year’s session, which will take place from Tuesday, August 18 through Tuesday, August 25, 2009.
Provided at no cost to boys and girls entering 2nd through 10th grades, the camp is located at the site of Camp Danbee, on the shores of magnificent Lake Ashmere, nestled in the heart of the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.
For more information, visit America’s Camp at http://www.americascamp.org/ or call (800) 548-6295.
9/11 Health Crisis Receiving More Attention
February 22, 2009
When President Obama met with 9/11 families recently, he reassured one attendee he would “never forget” the responders and others who became ill from the rescue and recovery operations, a sentiment advocates hope bodes well for the passage of Congressional legislation designed to help monitor and treat those whose health was adversely affected in the aftermath of the attacks. Obama has also been asked to reappoint Dr. John Howard, the 9/11 health coordinator who had been removed by the Bush Administration. In a related story, Manhattan federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein has stated the first of thirty 9/11 health-related trials will begin in May. He hopes decisions in these thirty cases will pave the way for settlements in hundreds of other outstanding cases.
Read more at Downtown Express, the NY Times, and Fox News.
Memorial to Flight 93 Moving Forward
February 20, 2009
A memorial dedicated to the 40 passengers and crew killed on United Flight 93 should be completed at the Western Pennsylvania crash site in time for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Learn more via the Associated Press.
Obama Retains Some Bush Anti-Terror Policies
February 17, 2009
While President Obama has made noteworthy changes to his predecessor’s policies in fighting the war on terror, such as rejecting harsh interrogation techniques, his administration is signaling it may retain other aspects, including the transfer of prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and the indefinite detention of certain terrorism suspects without trials. To learn more, visit the NY Times.
In a related story, the New Yorker examines in depth the complicated, and controversial, legal issues Obama is facing concerning “enemy combatants.” To read its analysis, click here.
Global Economic Crisis is Now Top Security Threat
February 12, 2009
On February 12, 2009, Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the global economic downturn is the primary near-term security threat to the United States. Blair testified, "Roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown," warning “"high levels of violent extremism" and "regime-threatening instability" might occur if the economic crisis does not resolve within a year or two. Read more at the Washington Post or listen to a segment at NPR.
Cybersecurity Focus of Obama Review
February 10, 2009
President Obama has ordered a 60-day review of our nation’s cybersecurity to see how the federal government protects sensitive data with technology. During his presidential run, Obama had compared cyber threats to nuclear and biological attacks, pledging to protect our technological infrastructure. Read more at Homeland Security Today.
Tool To Create Family Emergency Plans
The Department of Homeland Security has created a clear planning tool to help families prepare for emergencies. To access the form, visit the Ready Campaign.
President Acknowledges 9/11 Families in First News Conference
February 10, 2009
President Barack Obama held his first press conference on February 10, 2009, during which he mentioned his meeting with family members who lost loved ones in the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, and the 9/11 attacks. To view the press conference, visit the White House.
9/11 Families Meet With WMD Chair
February 9, 2009
Last week, 9/11 family members met with former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (WMD), for a briefing on the Commission’s research and conclusions.
Established by Congress in 2007 in accordance with 9/11 Commission recommendations, the independent panel, led by Chairman Graham as well as Vice-Chairman, former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), examined evidence from more than 250 military, political and academic experts. Their report, released in December 2008, assesses “our nation’s progress in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism,” and provides “a roadmap to greater security with concrete recommendations for improvement,” according to the Commission’s website. It concluded that an attack utilizing unconventional weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear or biological weapons is likely to occur by 2013 unless urgent preventive actions are taken by the US and its allies. The US is a prime target. The bi-partisan Commission made 13 recommendations to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The 9/11 families expressed their desire to be helpful in promoting the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. To visit the Commission’s web site and view the report, click here.
What is the WMD Commission?
The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism was established by Congress in 2007 in accordance with 9/11 Commission recommendations. The independent panel, led by Commission Chairman, former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), and Vice-Chairman, former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), examined evidence from more than 250 military, political and academic experts. Their report, released in December 2008, assesses “our nation’s progress in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism,” and provides “a roadmap to greater security with concrete recommendations for improvement,” according to the Commission’s website. It concluded that an attack utilizing unconventional weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear or biological weapons is likely to occur by 2013 unless urgent preventive actions are taken by the US and its allies. The US is a prime target. The bi-partisan Commission made 13 recommendations to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. To visit the Commission’s web site and view the report, www.preventwmd.org/
Switch to Digital TV Delayed to June
February 04, 2009
Both the House and the Senate have now passed legislation to extend the deadline for the transition to digital TV from February 17 to June 12, giving Americans four additional months to prepare. President Obama is likely to sign the bill into law. While most are ready, millions remain unprepared for a variety of reasons. VOICES continues to advocate for a smooth transition; the additional airwaves are needed for first responder communications in an emergency like 9/11. To learn how you can prepare for the switch, go to the government’s DTV web site at: www.dtv.gov/. To read more on the Congressional debate, visit the NY Times.
Bill to Address 9/11 Health Crisis Reintroduced to Congress
February 04, 2009
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY), and Michael McMahon (D-NY) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation to address the many health issues that emerged in first responders and others following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To read their press release, and see the bill itself, visit Rep. Maloney’s web site.
Congress Moves to Protect Whistleblowers
January 29, 2009
The House of Representatives has voted to strengthen whistleblower protections for a variety of federal employees, including employees involved in national security and scientific research. Previous attempts at such legislation, which aims to root out abuses of authority and also misspending, were difficult to push through and faced veto by the Bush administration. The latest attempt is more likely to succeed. Read more at the Washington Post.
Guantanamo Transfers to Saudi Arabian Program Will Continue
January 27, 2009
The Pentagon remains committed to transferring as appropriate former Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program, despite the program’s inability to prevent two ex-detainees from joining al-Qaeda. To date, more than 100 prisoners have been sent through the program, where they are encouraged to abandon Islamic extremism. Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, admires the program, stating: "The best you can do is work with partner nations in the international community to ensure that they take the steps to mitigate the threat ex-detainees pose. There are never any absolute guarantees. There's an inherent risk in all detainee transfers and releases from Guantanamo." Read more at the Washington Post.
Columbia Identifies Risk Factors in World Trade Center Evacuation
January 27, 2009
Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have studied the factors affecting the World Trade Center (WTC) evacuation on September 11. The findings are important to prepare for future emergencies, and the researchers have therefore issued recommendations for high-rise workers.
Read Science Daily.
Obama Strikes New Tone, Reaches Out to Muslims on Arab TV
January 27, 2009
In his first televised interview from the White House, President Barack Obama appealed to the Muslim world on a major Middle Eastern television station, emphasizing his desire to hear their concerns and forge a dialogue. He stressed the importance of US diplomats listening rather than dictating. In addition, he said that “Israel’s security is paramount…but I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace.” Read more at the NY Times.
Should September 11th be a Holiday?
January 25, 2009
Lawmakers across the nation have suggested that September 11th be declared a holiday, in order to ensure that its significance will never be forgotten. However, to date, no state, not even New York, has done so. To learn why, visit the LA Times.
CDC Issues Report on Terrorism Preparedness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has produced a report on Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response-Funded Activities. To read the report, which describes how public health will be protected in an emergency, visit the CDC.
See the Latest 9/11 Health News and Scientific Research
Visit New York City’s 9/11 Health site.
WE Count! 9/11 Health Survey
In an effort to “uncover the true scope of the 9/11 health crisis,” Beyond Ground Zero Network (BGZ) is partnering with 9/11 Environmental Action (EA) to conduct a community health survey. The organizations will perform extensive outreach throughout Lower Manhattan over the next few months to create a broad database of 9/11 health symptoms and their effects. They are asking everyone with health problems related to 9/11 to complete their survey, available at Survey Monkey. For more information, visit the Beyond Ground Zero Network.
Transition to Digital TV Problematic
January 23, 2009
Concerned because more than 6.5 million households may not be ready to switch to digital TV on February 17th, Congress considered delaying the transition until June. On Monday night, the Senate voted to extend the deadline, but on Wednesday the House was unable to amass the two-thirds majority required for a fast-track procedural vote. VOICES has been working with the DTV Coalition to educate the public on the importance of this issue. The transition is needed in order to free airwaves that are essential to first responder communications in an emergency such as 9/11. Analysts have raised a number of concerns regarding the public’s readiness for the switch, but there are also problems associated with postponing. Whether or not the deadline is delayed, VOICES will continue to advocate for a smooth transition. Any problems need to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible. Any problems need to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible. To learn more visit MSNBC and the NY Times.
Guantanamo to Close
January 22, 2009
In one of his first acts as President, President Barack Obama signed executive orders that aim to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year, end the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program, and review the manner in which detainees will be held and questioned. His orders serve to end the Bush administration’s military commissions system for prosecuting terrorist suspects. President Obama has acknowledged closing Guantanamo will be a complex and challenging undertaking. Read the Executive Orders directly at the White House web page. The New York Times has consolidated its Guantanamo coverage on one page, including a history of the issue. 9/11 family members have differing opinions on the closing of Guantanamo. Read a statement by September 11th Advocates. Read the Newsday article on the families of 9/11 firefighters.
Hillary Clinton Sworn In as Secretary of State
January 22, 2009
Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as our nation’s 67th Secretary of State. To read the testimony she gave during her nomination hearings, visit the US Department of State. There, you can also find her welcoming remarks to the Department. Prior to her swearing in, then New York Senator Clinton bade farewell to her colleagues in Congress. During her speech, she described in vivid detail and with obvious emotion her experiences in the aftermath of 9/11, visiting Ground Zero and working to provide assistance to all those devastated by the attacks. She noted her gratitude to many individuals in government and society, with a special nod to the 9/11 community, saying: “I've developed close and lasting relationships with many of the victims and the families of the victims of 9/11, and I applaud and thank them for their courage and their fortitude in not only fighting for the health benefits that were so desperately needed, but for the creation of the 9/11 Commission, for trying to do better on threat assessments, more resources for first responders, committed, despite their grief, to smarter policies to prevent future attacks on our nation. To read Clinton’s farewell speech to the Senate in its entirety. A video is also available at C-Span.
New Social Media Campaign Provides Tools for Emergencies
In an effort to prepare the nation for emergencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Ready Campaign, together with the Advertising Council, is launching a social media initiative. Individuals, families, businesses and communities now have access to interactive social media tools designed to help them take action and prepare for various emergency scenarios. Tools include an instructional video, local emergency contact information, checklists and guidelines. Updates on emergency situations will also be available. For access to these materials, go to www.ready.gov. It’s also possible to obtain materials by calling 1-800-BE-READY.
Napolitano Takes Action
January 22, 2009
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued a number of directives since assuming her position, regarding cybersecurity, northern border strategy, critical infrastructure protection, risk analysis, state and local intelligence sharing, transportation security, and state, local and tribal integration. To learn more, visit the Domestic Preparedness and Homeland Security websites.
Portion of 9/11 Commission Records Now Open to Public
The 9/11 Commission was established to investigate the attacks that occurred on September 11th 2001 and recommend prevention strategies. When they issued their report, the records they accumulated were transferred to the National Archives. The Commission hoped the records would be released to the fullest extent possible in January 2009. Toward that end, the National Archives has opened 35% of the records to the public this month. To learn more, including how to access available items, visit the National Archives at: http://www.archives.gov/legislative/research/9-11/.
Revamped White House Web Site
The White House has redesigned its web site and there are many pages that might be of interest to our readers. These include President Barack Obama’s strategies for protecting the nation against 21st century threats. To learn more, click on Homeland Security Agenda.
Second Death Linked to 9/11 Dust
January 17th 2009
For only the second time since 9/11, the New York City (NYC) Medical Examiner has ruled a subsequent death was linked to the inhalation of dust at the site. On September 11th, 2001, Leon Hayward, an investigator for NYC’s Department of Consumer Affairs, helped rescue handicapped co-workers. He died seven years later, having suffered with severe breathing and memory issues, as well as seizures and other difficulties. Last week, the Medical Examiner said Hayward died from cancer caused by toxic dust at the site. Read more at the NY Daily News.
Shanksville Memorial a Reality
January 17, 2009
The National Park Service, together with advocacy organization Families of Flight 93, has reached an agreement with Svonavec, Inc., paving the way for an official memorial to honor the 40 passengers and crew members who were killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA on September 11th, 2001. Svonavec owns the 274-acre parcel where the plane went down. Since then, even without proper facilities, 140,000 people have come every year to pay their respects. The agreement provides that a condemnation suit will be filed in federal court to determine the parcel’s value, but the National Park Service will take ownership at the start of that proceeding.
Read more at the NY Times.
Victims’ Families Pursue Release of Documents on 9/11 Security Failures
January 14, 2009
Three families who are pursuing wrongful death and injury lawsuits in connection with the deaths of their relatives on 9/11 have asked Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan to release millions of documents they say will shed light on aviation security failures that day. The documents were obtained from the airlines, security firms and others being sued by the families. Lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote: “The public ought to know about the breakdowns in aviation security that allowed four commercial planes to become weapons of mass destruction.”
The release of these documents, as in other cases, has aroused debate, pitting the public’s right to know against security concerns.
For more, read the NY Times.
Guantanamo Detainee Tortured, States Trial Overseer
January 14, 2009
Susan J. Crawford, a Bush Administration official who decides whether Guantanamo detainees will come to trial, discussed US treatment of Mohammed Al Qahtani, who has been dubbed September 11th’s "20th hijacker.” She said: "His treatment met the legal definition of torture."
Read more at the Washington Post.
9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund Chief Kenneth Feinberg Writes Book
January 13, 2009
The former head of the US government's Victims' Compensation Fund has written a book chronicling the process he and his department developed to compensate 9/11 victims. Kenneth Feinberg’s book, “What is Life Worth,” is a detailed examination of the difficulties involved in calculating compensation amounts. In a summary of its television interview with Feinberg, ABC News relates his story as well as those of several victims. Read more at ABC News.
NYC Fire Department and IBM Create Central Databank for Building Safety
January 12, 2009
The 2007 Deutsche Bank fire that resulted in the deaths of two firefighters has led to the creation of a central databank for all New York City (NYC) building and safety information. The databank came about through a partnership between the NYC Fire Department and IBM. The hope is that firefighters will eventually have quick access to all pertinent information when they inspect buildings or enter them during a fire. The databank should also serve as a model for other fire departments throughout the nation.
Read more at Newsday.
Innovative Fundraiser Benefits VOICES' Annual Appeal
January 12, 2009
Jillian Rossi is a remarkable teenager. A senior at Lehigh Valley Charter High School, Jillian organized a fundraiser for VOICES of September 11th that raised nearly $800. It all began on September 11th, 2001, when Jillian realized that her beloved cousin might be at the World Trade Center. She and her family will never forget the panic they experienced. Fortunately, he was discovered safe and sound, but Jillian was so frightened and moved, she felt enormous sympathy for all those who were lost, and all those who loved them. Her heart is still with them, and New York.
She remained true to her dedication when the time came to conduct her graduation project. At first she thought about having a school assembly, but she very quickly realized raising funds for victims’ families would be more productive. After investigating various organizations, Jillian selected VOICES, and we are very grateful she did. A singer herself, Jillian enlisted the entertainment talent of Lehigh Valley Charter High School alum Kristen Morgenstern, another great singer, as well as local DJ Brian McKay and country artist Buddy B. She promoted the event on the radio, in church bulletins, and through word of mouth. The event was a huge success—sold out, with over 130 guests filling the hall.
In addition to the entertainment, an opening prayer was offered by Monsignor Edward Zemanik. The Mayor of Easton, Sal Panto, presented Jillian with a well-deserved commendation. As Mayor Panto said, and as Jillian firmly believes, we must never forget the people whose lives were lost that day. It’s easy to push these painful thoughts aside as time goes by, but the memories are important to preserve, to honor the victims and to try as best we can to prevent future disasters.
Closing Guantanamo More Complex than Issuing an Executive Order
January 12, 2009
While it appears that President-elect Barack Obama may well close the prison at Guantanamo Bay by executive order immediately upon assuming office, as a practical matter, disbanding the facility may take as long as a year. Officials will have to transfer 248 prisoners to other countries and make many legal decisions, including how to try suspects.
Read more at the NY Times.
Artifact from Pentagon Attack Added to NM Memorial Park
January 10, 2009
The 9/11 Memorial Park in Belen, New Mexico has added a 10,000 lb. limestone slab from the Pentagon to its display. The park, which has been nationally recognized by Life Magazine and others as one of the few 9/11 memorial parks outside cities directly affected, has an elaborate exhibit to honor lives lost, and the heroes who tried to save them. The Memorial has been spearheaded by a mother, Gloria Sanchez, whose son was a first responder to the Pentagon on 9/11.
Read more at the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
Contractor Reluctant to Answer Safety Questions about Deutsche Bank Fire
January 9, 2009
James Abadie of Bovis Lend Lease is refusing to answer questions regarding conditions that may have led to the deaths of two firefighters in the 2007 Deutsche Bank fire. The City Council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment had called the contractor to a hearing in order to discuss possible errors before the fire and examine changes in procedures. However, Mr. Abadie did not want to participate, citing both former and current investigations into the fire by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The committee chairman, Alan J. Gerson, expressed frustration with the refusal, stating safety practices need to be explored.
Read more at the w