June 4, 2008 — -- In advance of Thursday's arraignment of alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others at Guantanamo Bay, the relatives of seven victims of the 9/11 attacks are charging that the military tribunals are "tainted by political influence."
In a June 3 letter to Susan Crawford, the judge who serves as the convening authority over the commissions, the family members claim that the latest example of the system's "politicization" was a secret invitation to attend the proceedings that allegedly was extended only to Deborah Burlingame, who lost her brother in 9/11 and has supported the Bush administration's position on the military tribunals.
Burlingame was also a featured speaker at the last Republican National Convention.
"As people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we want nothing more than to see that justice is served in the prosecution of suspects. However, we know that no justice will come out of a system that has been compromised by politics and stripped of the rule of law," the families wrote in the letter, released by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Burlingame told ABC News that she had not been invited to attend, but said she does believe "the system is designed to be fair and objective." She said she's "not worried about the process," but instead is worried about how the process will be carried out.
"I'm against trials in the criminal justice system," she told ABC News.
But Burlingame did express disappointment that the military is unable to accommodate victim's family members who want to watch the proceedings.
She said she is hopeful the military will be able to find a way for family members to watch the upcoming trial by closed circuit television.
The family members who signed on to the letter also urge transparency in the proceedings.
"If the prosecution of these suspects is carried out in a manner that is not in accordance with American values of due process, the rule of law, and transparency, any verdict will lack legitimacy and we will be left to wonder if those responsible for the deaths of our loved ones have really been brought to justice," they wrote.