Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why was there even a debate on how to handle Abdulmutallab?

More CYA from the White House, no doubt, as the WaPo reveals that there was a debate over how to handle Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. And I'm forced to ask "Why was there even a debate?"

Should Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day, have been considered an enemy combatant under the law of war and placed in military detention? The same question raised by senior Republicans last week was considered during a Jan. 6 National Security Council meeting led by President Obama in the White House Situation Room.

Stop. I know that in cases of law a person charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty, but Abdulmutallab was caught, red-handed, trying to detonate an explosive device on the plane, and was subdued by passengers and the air crew. Can we please drop the "alleged" part of this terrorist's description?

The issue arose when Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. brought up the decision to continue the process to
formally charge Abdulmutallab with attempted murder and attempted destruction of an aircraft under the U.S. criminal code.

"The attorney general said, 'I'm going to charge him tomorrow,' " and "there were questions raised about whether or not he should in fact go to law of war detention status," according to the transcript of a White House background briefing for reporters last Tuesday by two senior administration officials.

Not only should he have been treated as an illegal/unlawful enemy combatant (he was determined to blow up a civilian transportation medium) but he should have been handed over to CIA interrogators.

At that NSC meeting were Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was not disclosed who raised the question.

Secretary Gates and Director Panetta were present at the meeting, as well as Admiral Mullen. why didn't they step up and remind AG Holder he was out of his jurisdiction in this case? The man was a terrorist. Regardless of being caught on US soil, he should have been handed over to the CIA and military for a full interrogation.

In the discussion, it was pointed out that the FBI was working the case, that it had interrogators ready and that two counterterrorism agents were already in Nigeria, beginning a background investigation of Abdulmutallab and his large family.

Two men arrested on U.S. soil were previously deemed enemy combatants -- Jose Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. Both spent years in a military brig in South Carolina, and neither ever cooperated with interrogators.

Stop. As I noted yesterday in a lengthy post refuting John Brennan's assertions Jose Padilla was arrested and charged for attempted acts of terrorism. He was read Miranda rights. Why? Because he WAS A US CITIZEN! He's entitled to that right. He wasn't transferred until after Khalid sheikh Mohammed fingered him in a plot that al Qaeda had hatched to blow up apartment buildings in Chicago, sowing fear and panic -- the ultimate goal of a terrorist in addition to a body count.

Al-Mari (correct spelling, BTW) went through a similar means of arrest. He was charged, initially, with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. But again, the information obtained in KSM's interrogation lead investigators to transfer him to military custody, and he was moved to Gitmo. I really wish the Left would quit making the comparison of Abdulmutallab to that of Padilla and al-Mari. Neither of their situations come close to what Abdulmutallab did.

One factor pointed out during the NSC discussion was that when a person is held in military detention and questioned, it inevitably involves people who wear military uniforms. Those present were told that "it was the professional, considered judgment of the individuals who had access to Abdulmutallab that putting him in front of somebody with a military uniform would have made him even more opposed to any type of cooperation," the senior administration official said at last week's briefing.

That is the most asinine thing I've ever heard. Granted, how we handle terrorists today bears little resemblance to how we handled them under President Bush. But as I noted yesterday, Abd al-Hadi (Page 59 of Marc Thiessen's book "Courting Disaster" had no problem talking to interrogators right off the bat because of the rumors he had heard about how we conducted interrogations. Fear is a surprising motivator for those who use fear as a tactic. Also, the first 24 hours of incarceration for a terrorist are key to interrogators. As I've stated, repeatedly, for the last couple of weeks during that time interrogators can determine whether or not a detainee is cooperative or combative. If they're cooperative, that's great. If they're combative, interrogators will move onto the enhanced interrogation techniques that, for the most part, the Obama administration still has in place from the bush administration. (Clarification: 80% of what we used to do has been banned, but there are still techniques we can utilize that are considered "enhanced" that could break down a terrorist's resistance.)

"Given what we can do in a military commission and what we can do in the criminal justice system, there was full unanimity on the part of the seniors [President Obama and other NSC members at the meeting] that this was the right way to go," reporters were told last week.

During last week's public debate over the handling of Abdulmutallab, administration spokesmen did not refer to their internal discussions. They also have said little about the keys to getting the 23-year-old to resume talking after his first 50-minute interview Christmas night.

"They also have said little?" Are you kidding me? They practically bragged about bringing his family here to the US to loosen his lips in the wake of the criticism the White House was facing in the face of how they handled him initially. The WaPo goes into a bit of detail about that in this piece, but in doing so they're pushing a CYA agenda for the White House.

The White House tried to work with him, and they brought his family here to get what they needed. FBI interrogators claim that the intelligence they got from him wasn't "stale" intelligence. The problem is that with the White House running out to assuage critics that they were still getting information from him, despite being mirandized and obtaining a lawyer, we basically sent a signal to his comrades to go into hiding. they're gone. They're ghosts.

That's the risk in tipping our hand. Our enemy watches our media outlets. they glean information from us that most would overlook or find mundane. When they see that a fellow confederate in our custody is talking, shortly after being caught, it sends a message to them to go to ground, and tweak their plans to avoid detection or capture. The administration is unprepared to handle the threat of our enemy, and they apparently never paid attention to how the Bush administration handled sensitive and actionable intelligence they got from interrogations.

The bush administration didn't go running to the press to tell them that A) We had obtained actionable intelligence, B) That we knew of an impending attack, and C) That a former terrorist was singing like a canary. NEVER. It tips our hand. We control how we conduct operations when we control information. Barry and his cohorts didn't do that. They played the Beltway/DC cover your @$$ game because they knew they screwed up. And they have a willing media to help them.

There should never have been a debate. The president should have issued orders on how to handle Abdulmutallab (and chances are he did), and he should've been handed over to the appropriate interrogators. There should have been a gag on what they obtained, and they sure as Hell shouldn't have told anyone they were getting more intelligence. But, what can you expect from a rookie and his supporters that just don't get how important victory in this war is.

Publius II


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