Yesterday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding unanswered questions surrounding the attempted Christmas Day attack:
Mister President, yesterday several members of the administration’s national security team testified before the Senate concerning the attempted Christmas Day attack by the Nigerian terrorist of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. This testimony was troubling, and left some wondering why the administration is subjecting this terrorist to criminal prosecution instead of gaining the valuable intelligence that is needed in our war on Al Qaeda.
Admiral Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, stated frankly that the Christmas Day Bomber should have been questioned by the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group; Blair went on to say that neither he nor other important intelligence officials were consulted on this matter. This raises several troubling questions:
First, why were Miranda rights given to the obvious terrorist after only a brief session of questioning, which predictably ended his cooperation?
Second, at what level of authority was this decision taken to treat him as a criminal defendant instead of an unlawful enemy combatant? Who made this decision?
I asked this question last night of John Brennan, the President’s senior counterterrorism adviser, three times and he refused to answer. I think that the Senate is entitled to know precisely who authorized this.
A year ago the President decided to revise the Nation’s interrogation policies, and to restrict the CIA’s ability to question terrorists. The administration created a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group to question terrorists. Why wasn’t his group brought in once this terrorist was taken into custody?
Americans need to know these answers.
Bill Burck has more here; Stephen Hayes has more here.
I agree with Senator McConnell that these questions should be answered. Whatever the answer to the questions posed by Senator McConnell, however, the mistake of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than an enemy combatant can and should be rectified.
To say that this mistake can be rectified is not to say that the damage done by terminating Abdulmutallab’s interrogation in the immediate aftermath of his detention can be undone. Perhaps it can’t.
But something can and should be done about the fundamental error underlying Senator McConnell’s questions. On what ground is Abdulmutallab now being accorded the constitutional rights of American citizens? Who is responsible for that? Americans should know the answers to these questions too.