Recently, veteran reporter Walter Pincus has been faithfully transcribing Obama administration talking points about the Abdulmutallab interrogation onto the pages of the Washington Post. Last week, Pincus passed along the White House’s claim that Abdulmutallab is talking again and, indeed, providing “not stale” intelligence (was it the White House or Pincus that decided to stop short of claiming the intelligence is fresh?). This claim is difficult to reconcile with Robert Gibbs’ statement on behalf of the president that Abdulmutallab had already given interrogators all the information he had before being Mirandized, but no one believed that claim anyway.
Today, Pincus brings us the administration’s time line on the interrogation. According to that time line, the terrorist was not advised of his Miranda rights until nine hours after being arrested, not 50 minutes, as has been reported. This doesn’t mean, though, that Abdulmutallab was interrogated for nine hours. In the White House’s time line, the interrogation began three hours after the arrest (the delay occurring due to the need to treat burn wounds) and lasted initially for 50 minutes. It was then suspended because doctors said the terrorist needed additional medical treatment immediately.
When the interrogation resumed five hours later, Abdulmutallab clammed up. Only then, says the Whtie House, was he read his rights. The White House also claims that he had started to “wind down,” and given indications that he would say no more, even before the initial interrogation was suspended. Again, this is inconsistent with what Gibbs has said. In any event, it seems indefensible that the White House would have responded to Abdulutallab’s new-found reticence by Mirandizing him, rather than amping up the pressure.
I present the White House’s version of events not because I necessarily believe all of it, but so that readers will be aware of the administration’s belated posiition on the matter.
I also find it interesting that Pincus is reporting the administration’s line so uncritically. If the Bush administration had presented, a month and a half after the fact, a set of alleged facts designed to counter public perception that it had botched a matter like this, would the Washington Post’s crack investigative reporters fail to entertain the possibility that they were being fed self-serving spin? I don’t thnk so.
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