Below is the interview for the Rockport Pilot Newspaper that was published this past Saturday. We would like to thank Mike Probst and his staff for the interview and helping us in our cause.
Please visit Gallup Polls for a non biased poll as to if Guantanamo should be closed. I have seen far right, and far left polls which of course take the side of their supporters. I have also viewed the middle of the road polls on Guantanamo which always reflect that most Americans do not want Gitmo closed. And their numbers are rising!
The far left has waged an excellent propaganda campaign against Guantanamo, and the Military Commissions. Based mostly on lies and half truths to achieve their agenda. The closing of Gitmo, and the eventual release of the terrorists. They have committed these insidious acts under the disguise of wanting only the humane treatment for the terrorists, and to have a fair trial. A noble cause which the ACLU and friends have distorted and manipulated for their own twisted and sick beliefs. What gives me hope is that most Americans can see through their web of lies, and deceit. But what really concerns me is that we now have an administration that has bought into these lies in some cases. Even if its only for political reasons it is still wrong.
"We think Obama should be impeached if the terrorists are freed because of his intervention on their behalf."
- Gary G.Swenchonis, Sr
Remember the USS Cole!
By Mike Probst
Editor & Publisher
The Rockport Pilot
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories about Gary and Debbie Swenchonis’ fight for justice in the death of their son who was serving on the USS Cole when it was attacked Oct. 12, 2000 in Port Aden Yemen.
For more than eight years Gary and Debbie Swenchonis have mourned the loss of their son, Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., who was killed Oct. 12, 2000, along with 16 other sailors, when terrorists attacked the USS Cole in Port Aden, Yemen.
The parents of the 1994 Rockport-Fulton High School graduate have fought gallantly to see their son’s killers, who are being held in Gitmo (the facility which holds terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba), as well as those who still run free in Yemen, brought to justice.
Their fight began at the end of President Bill Clinton’s second term in office, continued through the eight-year tenure of President George W. Bush, and has now stalled with the start of President Barrack Obama’s first term.
Today, they are tired, and are asking themselves if it’s time to give up the fight.
Prior to Obama’s election, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vermont) new determination to investigate President Bush and all things Bush, the Swenchonises, through State Sen. John Cornyn, had secured a judicial hearing in Washington, D.C.
The Swenchonises were told this month there would be no hearing, only three days after Obama told the Cole families he was dismissing charges against Al-Nashari.
"We were told last Monday the hearing is off. It’s all politics," said G. Swenchonis. "He (Leahy) does not want the Cole attack brought up, especially with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State."
Obama’s announcement to close Gitmo, and to change the way terrorists are treated in the legal system, took all but a small breath of wind out of the Swenchonises’ sails.
"We could see the writing on the wall when Obama was elected and Clinton was named Secretary of State," said Swenchonis. "He promised to close Gitmo and find another way to hold terrorist trials."
It’s not just the current administration in which the Swenchonises are disappointed.
Information they uncovered themselves, as well as other information revealed since their son’s death, has uprooted unsettling information about which our government did not, or chose not to, act upon. That information comes from declassified documents, Yemenis who were in that country at the time of the attack, Able Danger personnel, retired FBI agents who were directly associated with the Cole investigation, etc.
"President Saleh of Yemen freed all the Cole killers who he caught," said Swenchonis. "He refuses to extradite them, even though our government is sending Yemenis charged with terrorism, from Gitmo back to Yemen."
The Swenchonis’ humble home on 8th Street in Lamar is a tribute to their fight for justice. One room is filled with files and documents collected and saved through the years.
Basic computer equipment has been used to find information which the FBI reportedly did not have.
"They sat in my living room one day and asked, "Where did you get that?" said Swenchonis. "That’s kind of scary when the government which is charged to protect us didn’t have information I had found simply by digging on the Internet."
Each letter and each promise from a government official has been followed by disappointment.
Up until now the Swenchonises have received some level of assistance from the federal government, but the government has yet to provide answers to many questions which would help give closure to their son’s death, a death in the line of duty in service to his country.
To continue the fight they have to now hire a big name attorney (a minimum $15,000 retainer), and that will not guarantee closure. The attorney’s job would be to lobby the government in an effort to change their mind about closing Gitmo, as well as keeping the Military Commissions (as opposed to trials in traditional American courts).
"It will take a lot of money to fight Obama’s decision (in regard to Gitmo, etc.)," said Swenchonis. "We probably wouldn’t win. Our son is worth it, but where do you draw the line?
"As of now we have nobody to lobby for us, as opposed to the terrorists at Gitmo who have the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), international human rights groups, and the far left liberals."
He said his family is "so sick of how terrorists have more rights than we do. We’re seriously thinking about backing off because we’re very tired, but we do have a lot of support from your average Americans and Yemenis. They have helped us tremendously."
Swenchonis is disabled now, being forced to retire after working in a field in which he provided well for his family. D. Swenchonis continues her employment.
Swenchonis has been "connected" since before the attack on the Cole.
He said the leader of Able Danger, Col. Tony Shaffer, testified before Congress after the Cole attack and asked "what happened" to Able Danger’s warning of such an attack.
"He was forced into retirement," said Swenchonis, "like anyone else in the government who has tried to get answers.
"I feel bad for them, but at least they tried to do the right thing."
Another example of the stonewalling in our nation’s capitol was the case of John O’Neill, the lead FBI agent in the Cole investigation.
"He had demanded some of the members of the Yemeni president’s family be investigated, along with some members of the Yemeni military," said Swenchonis. "He left Yemen to return back to Washington, D.C. for a report, but was then blocked by the State Department from re-entering Yemen by American Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine.
"He was very frustrated and had complained the Cole investigation was not being handled properly by the Yemenis."
In frustration, O’Neill retired in August 2001. On 9-11, the first day of his new job, he was killed. His new job was head of security at the World Trade Center.
Will the truth behind the Cole attack ever be revealed?
Will the freed killers in Yemen with $5 million bounties ever be extradited back to the United States to stand trial?
Will the Swenchonises ever be able to have closure to their son’s death?
Will they ever have their hearing before the judicial committee?
There was much hope last year when they sent a letter (see related story page 10B) requesting a hearing, and then subsequently learning one was planned – until Obama took office.
The Swenchonises were asked, with one day’s notice, along with other Cole and 9-11 victim’s families, to fly to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Obama so he could "personally" explain his decision to close Gitmo and speed up the release of many of those held at the facility.
"We didn’t go because we knew he would not change his mind," said Swenchonis.
The Swenchonises have been to Gitmo.
"I don’t understand how Obama can close Gitmo after it and the Military Commissions were approved by a bipartisan Congress.
"What about all our members of the military who fought and died to capture these terrorists?
"The prison is brand new. I saw it. I was there.
"Those terrorists live and eat better than many Americans. I watched them. I went into their cells.
"They even have arrows painted on the floor so they know in which direction to pray when they kneel to say their prayers.
"They get their Korans from the government, while in some of our own prisons Bibles and other reading materials, such as Alcoholics Anonymous books, have to be donated. I was the director of a federal community corrections facility, as well as a counselor at a state prison. I know.
"They even have signs which read ‘Do not disturb’ for praying."
So how do the Swenchonises feel about Obama’s plans?
"We think Obama should be impeached if the terrorists are freed because of his intervention on their behalf," said Swenchonis.
Should the local family give up its fight against the big government machine?