A mistake that can be rectified, part 4

The Washington Post supported the Obama administration’s treatment of Christmas day bomber Umar Abdulmuttalab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant. In an editorial published yesterday, It has nevertheless retracted its support. The Post writes that it “originally supported the administration’s decision in the Abdulmutallab case, assuming that it had been made after due consideration. But the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model.”
The Obama administration’s treatment of Abdulmutallab as a criminal accorded the constitutional rights of an American citizen is absurd and indefensible. Yet the administration persists in it.
It is highly unusual to see a prominent newspaper editorial board publicly change its mind. The stated ground for the Post’s original editorial position is lame. It criticizes the decision on procedural grounds. Is the Post incapable of judging its substance?
A defective decision making process is more likely to have resulted in a defective decision, but who cares what process the Obama administration used to come to the wrong decision? The administration is full of world-class liberal chin pullers who would come to the same decision if they had taken more time to think about it. They are simply on the wrong track.
Yesterday’s Post editorial also concludes on a lame note. The Post can’t quite bring itself to the conclusion that the Obama administration’s treatment of Abdulmutallab as a criminal is in fact a mistake. Maybe, maybe not. It professes to have an open mind on that question.
It notes, on the one hand: “The administration claims Mr. Abdulmutallab provided valuable information — and probably exhausted his knowledge of al-Qaeda operations — before he clammed up. This was immediately after he was read his Miranda rights and provided with a court-appointed lawyer.”
That sounds bad. Abdulmutallab was singing like a bird until the FBI read him a Miranda warning. Reasonable people would conclude that he stopped singing because of the warning.
But here the Post injects a note of epistemological uncertainty befitting a college philosophy class. The Post asserts, on the other hand: “The truth is, we may never know whether the administration made the right call or whether it squandered a valuable opportunity.” The truth is, we may never know this only if we are prohibited from employing the most basic common sense to assess the situation.
More importantly, however, the administration’s decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal is mistaken on its face. It cannot be defended on the merits in principle and the administration has not chosen to do so. It is an obvious mistake that can be rectified — the administration can dismiss the criminal proceedings and remit Abdulmutallab to the custody of the armed forces as an enemy combatant — but it would be helpful to have reasonable administration allies like the Post editorial board say forthrightly that it should do so.
If the administration now chose to treat Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant, he might well remain “clammed up.” At that point we would have a good case in which to debate the folly of the administration’s abandonment of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.
Via Stephen F. Hayes.

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