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Team O Lets Terrorist Go Mum

By Rich Lowry, New York Post - January 26, 2010

Comments: 3

Last Updated: 7:03 AM, January 26, 2010

Posted: 12:45 AM, January 26, 2010

Intending to die in the act of destroying a jetliner, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab instead landed alive in Detroit as a kind of message in a bottle from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He knew more about its recruiting, training and operations than anyone who is ever likely to fall into our arms babbling like a scared 23-year-old.

But the Obama administration shut him down. It didn't go so far as to tell the Customs and Border Protection officers to cover their ears and try not to listen when Abdulmutallab made incriminating statements on the initial ride to the hospital, but it came close. It had an FBI team inform Abdulmutallab of his right to remain silent, after which he predictably remained silent.

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This is brazen self-sabotage. We are in a war of intelligence. People risk their lives every day to get the information to understand the terror networks arrayed against us and identify specific threats. Why would we pre-emptively silence a priceless source of timely intelligence?

It literally didn't even occur to the administration to do otherwise. Top terrorism officials weren't consulted. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the director of National Intelligence, the FBI director and the secretary of Homeland Security were all out of the loop. Some as-yet-unidentified top Justice Department official, who probably is known around the office as "general," made the call.

According to an Associated Press account, after Abdulmutallab chatted with customs officials about his plot, FBI agents showed up and talked to him for about 50 minutes. He told them he'd worked with al Qaeda. The agents didn't Mirandize him, relying on an exception in cases involving an imminent threat to public safety. Then, a new FBI team arrived with instructions from Washington to read Abdulmutallab his rights. It's the last we've heard from him.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs maintains that FBI agents "got all that they could out of him." This is such a flimsy claim, it's hard to see how even the flack for "the most transparent administration ever" can believe it. The Washington Post reported of Abdulmutallab a few weeks ago that "authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the probe." Holding out hope might be appropriate for second marriages, but not for counterterrorism.

Abdulmutallab couldn't possibly have been interrogated thoroughly in 50 minutes, even if the FBI agents in Detroit were experts on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and were armed with the latest intelligence, which they weren't. As Marc Thiessen explains in his excellent new book, "Courting Disaster," eliciting information from a terrorist is a necessarily involved process. Whatever the detainee says is verified against other sources, and, as information builds, interrogators hone in on the key details.

To make this possible, Abdulmutallab should've been declared an unlawful combatant and sent to a military brig until such time as we were truly confident we'd learned all we could from him. Then, he could be transferred back to the civilian justice system, on the model of Jose Padilla or, most infamously, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

It's not as if the civilian case against him would have been jeopardized. When you are caught with a bomb in your pants, with dozens of witnesses to your crime, you are going to jail for a very long time (unless, perhaps, a hapless administration has to strike a plea deal to try to get you talking again).

When testifying before Congress about why the administration didn't consider going this route, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said it mistakenly had focused only on overseas people for interrogation -- then, amazingly, tapped his forehead and said, "Duh." He told Congress that the handling of Abdulmutallab should have been a matter for the new "high-value interrogation unit," apparently unaware that the unit hasn't yet been set up.

Heads should roll, and President Obama should reverse course on Abdulmutallab. In the meantime, this resource sits in a cell and consults his lawyer, mute to us.

Have a comment on this PostOpinion column? Send it in to LETTERS@NYPOST.COM!

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JulianusRex

01/26/2010 7:30 AM

At what point does "self-sabotage" cross the line into the realm of Treason?

Report Abuse

HAHA

01/26/2010 7:23 AM

Don't blame me, I didn't vote for Obama!

Report Abuse

Crazy Beer Binger

01/26/2010 6:26 AM

Liberals idolize terrorists because the USA is the worlds biggest terrorist(in other words the country with the most liberty which the statist hates)but when there is another terrorist attack everyone will know that obamas's merry band of liberals treated them with kid gloves, and you risk your life voting for these nuts

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It literally didn't even occur to the administration to do otherwise. Top terrorism officials weren't consulted. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the director of National Intelligence, the FBI director and the secretary of Homeland Security were all out of the loop. Some as-yet-unidentified top Justice Department official, who probably is known around the office as "general," made the call.

According to an Associated Press account, after Abdulmutallab chatted with customs officials about his plot, FBI agents showed up and talked to him for about 50 minutes. He told them he'd worked with al Qaeda. The agents didn't Mirandize him, relying on an exception in cases involving an imminent threat to public safety. Then, a new FBI team arrived with instructions from Washington to read Abdulmutallab his rights. It's the last we've heard from him.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs maintains that FBI agents "got all that they could out of him." This is such a flimsy claim, it's hard to see how even the flack for "the most transparent administration ever" can believe it. The Washington Post reported of Abdulmutallab a few weeks ago that "authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the probe." Holding out hope might be appropriate for second marriages, but not for counterterrorism.

Abdulmutallab couldn't possibly have been interrogated thoroughly in 50 minutes, even if the FBI agents in Detroit were experts on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and were armed with the latest intelligence, which they weren't. As Marc Thiessen explains in his excellent new book, "Courting Disaster," eliciting information from a terrorist is a necessarily involved process. Whatever the detainee says is verified against other sources, and, as information builds, interrogators hone in on the key details.

To make this possible, Abdulmutallab should've been declared an unlawful combatant and sent to a military brig until such time as we were truly confident we'd learned all we could from him. Then, he could be transferred back to the civilian justice system, on the model of Jose Padilla or, most infamously, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

It's not as if the civilian case against him would have been jeopardized. When you are caught with a bomb in your pants, with dozens of witnesses to your crime, you are going to jail for a very long time (unless, perhaps, a hapless administration has to strike a plea deal to try to get you talking again).

When testifying before Congress about why the administration didn't consider going this route, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said it mistakenly had focused only on overseas people for interrogation -- then, amazingly, tapped his forehead and said, "Duh." He told Congress that the handling of Abdulmutallab should have been a matter for the new "high-value interrogation unit," apparently unaware that the unit hasn't yet been set up.

Heads should roll, and President Obama should reverse course on Abdulmutallab. In the meantime, this resource sits in a cell and consults his lawyer, mute to us.

Have a comment on this PostOpinion column? Send it in to LETTERS@NYPOST.COM!

sports_page quigo_lower 1482096 871776 440 225 * --> Topics Federal Bureau of Investigation Al-Qaeda Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab Barack Obama National Counterterrorism Center U.S. Department of Justice White House Robert Gibbs Washington Post Company Jose Padilla Khalid Sheikh Mohammed U.S. Congress Dennis Blair Comments (3)Post Your Comment Report Abuse

JulianusRex

01/26/2010 7:30 AM

At what point does "self-sabotage" cross the line into the realm of Treason?

Report Abuse

HAHA

01/26/2010 7:23 AM

Don't blame me, I didn't vote for Obama!

Report Abuse

Crazy Beer Binger

01/26/2010 6:26 AM

Liberals idolize terrorists because the USA is the worlds biggest terrorist(in other words the country with the most liberty which the statist hates)but when there is another terrorist attack everyone will know that obamas's merry band of liberals treated them with kid gloves, and you risk your life voting for these nuts

You must be logged in to leave comments. Login ι Register

ad_tag("box1","300x600,300x250","script"); PostPics Today in Pictures Day In Photos: Jan. 25, 2010 Sweet 16 party for P. Diddy's son SAG Awards red-carpet arrivals Jilted Lover Billboards Weekly animals gallery More in photos Click on Each Photo Video More in videos Most Popular read emailed viewed commented Fox eyes Conan Sex is Pitts Quiet love Notorious Dick 'Jersey Shore' cast all replaceable Code red looms for St. Vinny's Hey, just ask my mistress! Fox ready to swoop in on Conan Law bites 'sex' coach 'Bulletproof' CEO in $10M 'scam' trial Jilted Lover Billboards Celebrity Photos: Jan. 26, 2010 SAG Awards red-carpet arrivals Celebrity Photos: Jan. 25, 2010 Day In Photos: Jan. 25, 2010 Hey, just ask my mistress! Obama to ask for partial 3-year spending freeze in 2011 Fox ready to swoop in on Conan Alleged victim testifies in cop assault case O plan$ a deep freeze ad_tag("box2","300x250","script"); ad_tag("rt_rail_promo","300x100","script"); DuPont Swings to Profit on Stronger Sales U.K. Economy Exits Recession Chinese Banks Take Steps to Rein In Credit Novartis CEO Steps Aside Two Big Printers Expected to Merge Dem Donor Gets 'Sweetheart' Contract for Afghan Work Haiti's Homeless Plead for Tents After Earthquake Car Bomber in Baghdad Kills at Least 18 Hopes Dim for Survivors After Lebanon Plane Crash Travel: How to Be a Restaurant Forager Gull carries off mid-air mugging Bee sting man wakes in coffin Iraq War 'illegal', says law man Keepy-uppy 'Monopoly' bid Eye doctor jailed for teen sex act Post Sections News: Business Opinion Columnists Local News Sports: Columnists Scores PageSix: Celeb Photos POPWRAP Page Six Magazine Entertainment: TV Movies Music Classifieds: Rentals Jobs Cars Real Estate NY Apartments Multimedia: Photos Video Specials: Contests/Sweepstakes Customer Care Contact Us FAQ Today's Paper Archives Covers Back Issues Reprints Sitemap Help Subscribe Home Delivery Daily Newsletter E-Edition Mobile RSS User Services Advertising/Partners Media Kit Parade Magazine Coupons Can't find what you're looking for? Try searching:

NEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc.

nypost.com, nypostonline.com, and newyorkpost.com are trademarks of NYP Holdings, Inc.

Copyright 2009 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved. Privacy | Terms of Use

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01/26/2010 7:30 AM

At what point does "self-sabotage" cross the line into the realm of Treason?

HAHA

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