Dear Members of Congress:
The pictures of innocent Syrian's writhing in pain, unable to breath, suffering from burns and crying for help pull on all our heartstrings -- and they should. Who would not be affected by such heinous acts of aggression? With all my heart, I want my deepest sorrows for these tortured individuals to be clear. However, as the Congress turns its full power of deliberation and legislation to the question of Syria at the same time as the 12th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on our nation, I, as a widow of 9/11 with three children who lost their father that day, must ask Congress another question.
Where is the outrage that over a decade has passed and the criminals who funded al-Qaeda's attack on us have not been held accountable for their role in killing thousands of innocent men, women and children? Doesn't the senseless murder of nearly 3,000 innocent souls from over 23 countries deserve the same ferocious debate?
While my heart breaks for what happened in Syria and for what happens daily in other parts of the world, my heart is equally concerned about the safety of America and as long as we do not stop the flow of money going to terrorist networks like al-Qaeda, we will never be safe. We should never forget the pain and suffering inflicted on this nation 12 years ago was not just terrorism -- it was torture.
Yes, Congress did turn its attention to these issues in the fall of 2001, and I am grateful for that. But it is the knowledge of what was withheld by our own government from Congress and what the federal courts have done through misguided interpretations of the law that should leave us shaking with rage -- a healthy, well-deserved rage.
The public still does not know the whole story about who bankrolled the attacks. It is still a secret. The 9/11 Commission was unable to access critical documents that may have implicated others. The co-chairs of that commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton requested that all possible FBI, CIA and 28 redacted pages of the Joint Congressional Inquiry be declassified by January of 2009. But even that never happened. Former Sen. Bob Graham, (co-chair of the 9/11 Joint Congressional Inquiry) after learning about the hijackers' Sarasota, Florida cell (information withheld from the Joint Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission by the FBI until leaked in 2011), has been calling for a re-opening of the 9/11 investigation and for the transparency that has been totally absent over the past 12 years. Even Congress has been lied to.
Let's begin with the obvious. Do we believe 19 hijackers, who barely spoke English, came to the United States via air travel, rented apartments and cars, attended aviation schools, travelled and lived here for 2 years and bought first class airfare to practice and execute their heinous crimes did so with no monetary support? These Islamist hit men were bankrolled for over 2 years by a very wealthy al-Qaeda financial network of individuals, banks and ostensible charities (aka the Golden Chain), based almost entirely in Saudi Arabia.
Over 6,000 of us family members and those injured have tried for 12 years to bring forth a mammoth civil legal case pending in federal district court in New York to expose those individuals and groups. However, the federal courts have literally twisted every line of current anti-terrorism law into a coiled mess with no teeth left.
Through a series of erroneous court rulings, the federal courts have undermined the intent of Congress by stating that U.S. civil courts have no jurisdiction against terrorist financiers if the money or support was given abroad even when the attack takes place inside our borders.
The problem can be best understood by example: If we discover someone intentionally gave aid or money to the Boston Marathon bombers and that money had been given to them outside our borders -- no accountability from a civil action would be possible.
In my household on 9/11 and in the homes of thousands of Americans, we watched along with the world our loved ones trapped in a terrorist designed hell -- and the phone calls that came in were both a blessing and a curse. I had spoken with my husband Tom, and I heard the fear and screams in the background. I saw the images on TV of his building engulfed in flames. All those innocent people trapped above the point of impact in the North Tower had no chance of survival -- no chance of rescue.
At the same time other families were learning the news of airplanes hijacked carrying their loved ones, fearful they would meet the same fate in NYC. Brave individuals tried valiantly to save themselves and our nation from further death and destruction. Our fearless firemen, policemen and port authority officers gave their lives in trying to rescue others. Many ground zero workers have also paid dearly. And, we cannot forget the survivors who lived through the nightmare and suffer to this day.
Whether this country strikes at Syria or not, either will have grave consequences for our nation. My hope is that Congress will rally in support of a legislative measure being sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to place the law on terrorism funding and support on solid ground. The 9/11 families and survivors will continue to fight to reveal the truth behind the terror inflicted on us and help us achieve justice for the crimes against humanity that happened on our soil 12 years ago.
Terry Strada is the widow of Tom Strada, 104th Floor, North Tower and a member of 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism see: justiceagainstterrorism.org and Act Now to Pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).