Fisking the clueless, partisan John Brennan
John Brennan took to the USA Today blog to, again, denounce critics, and make the claim that they're emboldening our enemies: (HT to Captain Ed)
Politics should never get in the way of national security. But too many in Washington are now misrepresenting the facts to score political points, instead of coming together to keep us safe.
No one is "misrepresenting" anything in this case. The Obama administration decided to treat Abdulmutallab like a common criminal instead of a terrorist. He's not, and you sure as Hell need more than fifty minutes to interrogate a terrorist who tried to blow himself up, and a plane load of innocent civilians along with him, on Christmas Day.
Immediately after the failed Christmas Day attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was thoroughly interrogated and provided important information. Senior counterterrorism officials from the White House, the intelligence community and the military were all actively discussing this case before he was Mirandized and supported the decision to charge him in criminal court.
Thoroughly interrogated? Fifty bloody minutes is a "thorough" interrogation. For the love of Pete, that's completely asinine, and utterly inept. And I'll call BS to the assertion that top intelligence and counterterrorism officials had been notified. If that were the case why did Dennis Blair (DNI), Janet Napolitano (DHS Secretary), and Michael Leiter (Director, NCTC) all testify before the Senate Select Intelligence committee that they weren't notified of Abdulmutallab's arrest? Those three people should have been notified immediately, and unless they lied to the SSIC, John Brennan is lying about who was notified. ("Lying" might be too strong a word. Maybe it slipped his mind who was notified, but he can't spin what those three told the SSIC about the Abdulmutallab case.)
The most important breakthrough occurred after Abdulmutallab was read his rights, which the FBI made standard policy under Michael Mukasey, President Bush's attorney general. The critics who want the FBI to ignore this long-established practice also ignore the lessons we have learned in waging this war: Terrorists such as Jose Padilla and Saleh al-Mari did not cooperate when transferred to military custody, which can harden one's determination to resist cooperation.
Let's start with the obvious. Jose Padilla was a US citizen who was entitled to Miranda rights. He was later deemed an unlawful enemy combatant, and moved to Gitmo. Saleh al-Mari, while not a US citizen, was captured on US soil attempting to execute a terrorist attack. The initial reaction was to mirandize him, but once Khalid Sheikh Mohammed started to explain his role in an imminent attack, he was also declared an unlawful combatant, and transferred to Gitmo. BOTH men, according to Marc Thiessen's book "Courting Disaster", did start cooperating with interrogators once they were transferred. So, again, Mr. Brennan is either uneducated about the facts, or he's lying his @$$ off.
It's naive to think that transferring Abdulmutallab to military custody would have caused an outpouring of information. There is little difference between military and civilian custody, other than an interrogator with a uniform. The suspect gets access to a lawyer, and interrogation rules are nearly identical.
Incorrect again, Mr. Brennan. While interrogation methods are similar in some respects between law enforcement professionals and intelligence officers, the interrogation conducted by military and CIA officers differ in many respects from what the FBI does. It wasn't until after the landmark Supreme Court cases of Rasul, Hamdan, and Padilla were terrorists granted more access to lawyers. Before then, their access to legal representation relied solely on lawyers from the military's JAG corps. Again, this fact is backed up by Marc Thiessen in his book. (For those wondering why I continue to cite Mr. Thiessen's book, it is the most comprehensive digest on what we actually did and allowed in interrogating terrorists, and Mr. Brennan is clearly ignorant of the facts involved.)
Would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid was read his Miranda rights five minutes after being taken off a plane he tried to blow up. The same people who criticize the president today were silent back then.
Was Richard Reid initially charged with committing an act of terrorism? No he wasn't. He was charged with "interfering with the performance of duties of flight crew members by assault or intimidation". The attack was to happen on 22 December 2001, but prosecutors -- only after FBI forensic personnel testified about the explosive in his shoes -- didn't seek a grand jury indictment on terrorism charges immediately. On 16 January 2002, a grand jury handed down an eight-count indictment of Reid on terrorism charges. The terrorism charges were secondary, and it's disingenuous of Mr. Brennan to claim that he was mirandized and charged as a terrorist "five minutes after being taken off a plane ..." He wasn't. Those charges weren't filed until almost a month after his initial arrest.
Cries to try terrorists only in military courts lack foundation. There have been three convictions of terrorists in the military tribunal system since 9/11, and hundreds in the criminal justice system — including high-profile terrorists such as Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarius Moussaoui.
How can this lack foundation? The president attempted to run military commissions, and the Supreme Court said he didn't have the authority. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court ruled that military commissions had to be specifically created by Congress, and that previous legislation hadn't created such inferior courts. (They were correct.) So the Military Commissions Act of 2006 created those tribunals, and President Bush ordered that trials begin immediately so that the 9-11 families saw justice. Those involved in the 9-11 attacks were the first to be brought before those tribunals. But thanks to their lawyers, the process was slowed to a trickle. Had their lawyers not continued to demand constitutional rights for those that didn't deserve them, we might have seen more prosecuted. And as for the "hundreds in the criminal justice system," again, that didn't happen until after the Supreme Court overstepped its boundaries in ordering that these terrorists be allowed to challenge their detainment in civilian courts. They should NEVER have been allowed acces to our court system. And, as explained above, Reid was initially charged with a non-terrorist crime. Moussaoui was initially arrested on an immigration violation on 16 August 2001. It wasn't until 11 December 2001 that Moussaoui was charged with any acts of terrorism. It's helpful to know the facts about the initial arrests, but Mr. Brennan appears to be playing fast and loose with the facts.
This administration's efforts have disrupted dozens of terrorist plots against the homeland and been responsible for killing and capturing hundreds of hard-core terrorists, including senior leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond — far more than in 2008. We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war.
Only the most partisan will claim this administration hasn't taken the fight to the terrorists. Obama has done a decent job of using technology to take out high-ranking al Qaeda/Taliban members using Predator drones. To that there should be no argument. But we can't win this fight on technology alone. We need HUMINT (human intelligence) on the ground to really take this fight to our enemies, and he seems to have the same idea that President Clinton had with regard to such measures. Technology is better because it takes away the risk of casualties. (I won't go into how the RoEs -- rules of engagement -- are doing more to harm our efforts in Afghanistan than help.) As for capturing these people, where are they? Gitmo, right? And who's interrogating them? That's right, CIA and military officers. And we're getting intelligence from those people because they're being interrogated. But their interrogations last a helluva lot longer than fifty minutes, and I sincerely doubt that their lawyers are present when those interrogations take place. (Don't think for a moment that the majority of those incarcerated at Gitmo are receiveing EITs. They're not. Those are reserved for extremely high-value targets like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.)
Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill. They will, however, be dismantled and destroyed, by our military, our intelligence services and our law enforcement community. And the notion that America's counterterrorism professionals and America's system of justice are unable to handle these murderous miscreants is absurd.
There is no fear-mongering in our criticism, nor are we fearful of our enemies. We're afraid that this administration isn't taking this war seriously, and brother does it show. Our counterterrorism officials could do this job a lot better if the Obama administration would implement the same programs that the Bush administration put in place post-9-11, but they systematically dismantled those protocols. Our civilian system of justice is wholly inadequate to handle terrorists, plain and simple. It showed in the Moussaoui trial where the man should have been sentenced to death, not life in prison. And as for our intelligence services, they'd be breathe a sigh of relief if they didn't have to watch over their shoulder for a federal prosecutor to charge them with a crime that isn't a crime.
As Marc Thiessen lays out in his book, every method utilized by the Bush administration met the legal parameters of what is and isn't torture. We didn't torture those we had in custody. We used enhanced interrogation techniques on three people -- those three were deemed unwilling to cooperate with interrogators. Once employed, they literally opened up about what they knew. We're not asking that for ALL terrorists. Abd al-Hadi (Page 59 of "Courting Disaster") was 'scared to death' of what awaited him in our custody because of the rumors he had heard of what we would do to him. He was rather cooperative based solely on those rumors. Sometimes rumors are all we need to make the terrorist cooperative and compliant.
But we didn't get a chance to use any of the lesser techniques on Abdulmutallab. The Justice Department didn't even let us start that. Fifty minutes -- FIFTY MINUTES -- with FBI interrogators is all we got. That's not a lot of time, and it's hardly enough to glean any relevant intelligence from him. but the administration claims that in weeks after his capture and arrest, they've gotten quite a bit of information from him. Why? Because they brought his family here, and supposedly they're encouraging him to talk. And how do we know this? Because the administration is bragging about it.
Great. Way to go, guys. Now his confederates are in hiding, amending their plot, and they're planning to strike us utilizing intelligence we're not privy to because a narcissistic administration would rather enjoy the accolades of their brilliance instead of rolling up a cell determined to hit us. The Bush administration never discussed, publicly, what we had learned from the terrorists in our custody, and rightly so. They knew how our enemy thought and operated. They knew that to tip their hand meant ceding the field and the information in our possession.
While Mr. Brennan's political heart is in the right place defending his boss, his brain is apparently what he sits on daily otherwise even he'd admit some mistakes were made with regard to Abdulmutallab.
For more on this op-ed that John Brennan assembled, he gets a thorough fisking from Byron York and Scott Johnson of PowerLine. Also the USA Today has an editorial that rejects Mr. Brennan's arguments.