Meeting with victims’ families

MEETING WITH VICTIMS’ FAMILIES…. President Obama met for over an hour yesterday with about 40 relatives of terror victims — both from the 9/11 attacks and the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole — in which he assured them that the terror suspect would face “a swift and certain justice.”

Some of the family members had been publicly critical of the administration’s decision to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, but the NYT reported that Obama pledged to the families “that the terror cases would be reviewed and handled through the courts.”

John Clodfelter of Mechanicsville, Va., whose son, Kenneth, was killed in the Cole bombing, said he came to the meeting with apprehension over the decision to close the prison and the delay in prosecutions. But after listening to the president and being assured that the terror suspects would not be released, Mr. Clodfelter said his opinion changed.

“I did not vote for the man, but the way he talks to you, you can’t help but believe in him,” Mr. Clodfelter said on Friday evening. “He left me with a very positive feeling that he’s going to get this done right.”

The president and his advisers are reviewing the cases, aides said, to ensure that the 245 suspects at Guantanamo Bay are afforded their legal rights. The review will determine whether the terror suspects will be and tried in U.S. courts or dispatched to other countries for prosecution.

Retired Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, who represents victims of the Cole and was the commanding officer of the vessel at the time of the attack in 2000, has disagreed with the decision to close the prison. But in an interview after the meeting, he said he was very pleased with the president’s explanation and commitment to bringing the suspects to justice.

“It went far better than I had imagined,” Commander Lippold said Friday evening. “I was surprised with how well it went.”

I’m often surprised, just in casual conversations with people who don’t work in politics or media, about the sense that Obama would close Gitmo and simply release the detainees. There’s apparently an impression that the president would right Bush’s wrongs by opening the door and announcing, “You’re all free to go.”

It’s not nearly as controversial when those concerned hear the whole story.

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