Posts Tagged ‘Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’

Krauthammer on the pantybomber

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The handling of the Christmas Day bombing suspect: the scandal grows

The real scandal surrounding the failed Christmas Day airline bombing was not the fact that a terrorist got on a plane — that can happen to any administration, as it surely did to the Bush administration — but what happened afterward when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was captured and came under the full control of the U.S. government.

After 50 minutes of questioning him, the Obama administration chose, reflexively and mindlessly, to give the chatty terrorist the right to remain silent. Which he immediately did, undoubtedly denying us crucial information about al-Qaeda in Yemen, which had trained, armed and dispatched him.

We have since learned that the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab had been made without the knowledge of or consultation with (1) the secretary of defense, (2) the secretary of homeland security, (3) the director of the FBI, (4) the director of the National Counterterrorism Center or (5) the director of national intelligence (DNI).

The Justice Department acted not just unilaterally but unaccountably. Obama’s own DNI said that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by the HIG, the administration’s new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.

Perhaps you hadn’t heard the term. Well, in the very first week of his presidency, Obama abolished by executive order the Bush-Cheney interrogation procedures and pledged to study a substitute mechanism. In August, the administration announced the establishment of the HIG, housed in the FBI but overseen by the National Security Council.

Where was it during the Abdulmutallab case? Not available, admitted National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, because it had been conceived for use only abroad. Had not one person in this vast administration of highly nuanced sophisticates considered the possibility of a terror attack on American soil?


It gets worse. Blair later had to explain that the HIG was not deployed because it does not yet exist. After a year! I suppose this administration was so busy deploying scores of the country’s best lawyerly minds on finding the most rapid way to release Gitmo miscreants that it could not be bothered to establish a single operational HIG team to interrogate at-large miscreants with actionable intelligence that might save American lives.

The decision can not be reversed, either

Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins had written an earlier letter asking for Abdulmutallab to be turned over to the military for renewed interrogation. The problem is, it’s hard to see how that decision gets reversed. Once you’ve read a man Miranda rights, what do you say? We are idiots? On second thought . . .

The decision to hold the KSM trial in NY can be reversed. The missed opportunity to gather meaningful intelligence from a terrorist can not.

Now Congress gets in the act, Congress and Terror Trials
Use the constitutional power to set court jurisdiction:
, since Congress

can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.

Let’s hope they do.

Newsy has a report on Yemen, where the pantybomber got his training and materials,

The Abdulmutallab blunders

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The first blunder:
In today’s Wall Street Journal,
Another intelligence blunder.

Earlier this month, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan wrote a damning memo on the government’s failure to “connect the dots” in the days before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a Christmas day flight to Detroit. On Wednesday, Dennis Blair delivered an equally damning verdict on the government’s handling of the terrorist after he was apprehended.

The Director of National Intelligence told the Senate that by immediately handing Abdulmutallab to the civilian justice system, the government all but slammed the door on its ability to interrogate him thoroughly. Specifically, the feds failed to avail themselves of a unit called the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, which Mr. Blair says was created “to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means.”

“We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have,” Mr. Blair said. “Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and, duh, you know, we didn’t put it [in action] here.”

That’s our emphasis, and we put it there to underscore the scale of the intelligence blunder that was committed when Abdulmutallab was remanded to FBI custody, where he reportedly talked to investigators until advised by counsel not to. Now the government’s only hope for Abdulmutallab to say a bit more is via a plea bargain, by which time his intelligence leads will likely have run cold.

What makes this debacle all the more extraordinary is that it would have been perfectly lawful to hold Abdulmutallab in military custody, which would have given the government time to interrogate him and consider whether it wanted to try him in civilian or military court. Instead, such was the apparent haste by the FBI that Director Robert Mueller testified that “there was no time to get a follow-up [HIG] group in there.” Do our real-life Jack Bauers now travel by Amtrak?

If it were up to Obama, they would travel by Smart Car.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is asking Who Gave the Christmas Day Bomber the Right to Remain Silent?
Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser won’t say who decided to Mirandize Abdulmutallab.

We know — from the testimony yesterday — that four of the nation’s top counterterrorism officials were not asked for their views on handling Abdulmutallab as a criminal — a group that includes Blair, Mueller, Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security.

So who, exactly, was consulted? And who — a name would be helpful — made that final decision?

McConnell reveals that he took that question to John Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, who refused to answer three times? And that alone raises several additional troubling questions?

*Does Brennan know who made those crucial decisions on Abdulmutallab?

*If not, why not?

*And if so, what reason would he have for refusing to share that information with McConnell?

All good questions; however, Scott Johnson makes an even better point, which brings us to,
The second blunder:

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.

The silence of the underpants loins*

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Treat a terrorist as a criminal instead of as an enemy combatant, and lose valuable time and intelligence-gathering opportunities:

Detroit bomber ‘singing like a canary’ before arrest
President Barack Obama is under fire over claims that the Christmas Day underwear bomber was “singing like a canary” until he was treated as an ordinary criminal and advised of his right to silence.

The lawyer for the 23-year-old Nigerian entered a formal not guilty plea on Friday to charges that he tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on December 25 – even though he reportedly admitted earlier that he was trained and supplied with the explosives sewn into his underwear by al-Qaeda in the Arab state.

“He was singing like a canary, then we charged him in civilian proceedings, he got a lawyer and shut up,” Slade Gorton, a member of the 9/11 Commission that investigated the Sept 2001 terror attacks on the US, told The Sunday Telegraph.

It’s all about the law enforcement issue:

“I find it incomprehensible that this administration is treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue. The president has finally said that we are at war with al-Qaeda. Well, if this is a war, then Abdulmutallab should be treated as a combatant not a criminal.”

Abdulmutallab could have been held and interrogated in military custody under existing US legislation before a decision was taken whether to charge him before a military tribunal or a civilian court, according to Michael Mukasey, the last Attorney General under President George W Bush.

Mr Mukasey argues that it was crucial to gain intelligence from him immediately as details about locations, names and other plots is subject to rapid change. For the same reason, he dismissed the argument by John Brennan, Mr Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, that investigators will garner valuable data during any plea-bargaining talks.

“He certainly should know that the kind of facts that Abdulmutallab might be expected to know have a shelf life that is a lot shorter than the plea bargaining process,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Marc Thiessen explains why the administration ought to Stop Blaming the CIA:

In the age of terror, our enemies do not have large armies or flotillas of warships that can be observed by spies or tracked by satellites. Instead, the terrorists conspire in secret, hide among civilians, and attack us from within. Their plans to kill innocent men, women, and children are known only to a handful of cruel men.

This means there are essentially three ways to gain information about terrorist attacks:

The first, and hardest, is to penetrate the enemy. This can be done, but it is no easy task. Al Qaeda is a small, secretive network of Arab extremists that is extremely suspicious of outsiders. And we saw this week just how difficult it is to penetrate their ranks. The terrorist who blew up a CIA base in Afghanistan—killing seven operatives—turns out to have been a double agent, a trusted source who was really working for the enemy.

The second method is “signals intelligence”—using advanced technology to intercept and monitor the enemy’s electronic communications. Signals intelligence has been essential to the fight against terror, but it has inherent limitations. When intelligence officials monitor terrorist communications, they are passive listeners to the conversations of others. They cannot ask questions, probe for additional information, or sometimes even identify voices or email addresses in intercepted communications. Moreover, the terrorists know they are being monitored, so they are careful to speak codes that are difficult to break without inside information.

This leaves only one other human intelligence tool: interrogation. The interrogation of senior terrorist leaders has distinct advantages over other forms human intelligence. It allows our intelligence professionals to ask the terrorists direct questions. Because terrorists are held in secret and cut off from the outside world, CIA officials can expose sensitive intelligence to them during questioning without fear it will get back to terrorists at large. CIA officials can use information gained from one detainee to question other detainees—and then go back and confront the first detainee with what they learned. Captured terrorists can also help the CIA verify whether the sources we recruit inside al Qaeda are trustworthy, and providing reliable information. They can identify voices in phone calls and email addresses, and decipher enemy codes that would otherwise remain a mystery. No other tool provides our intelligence community with this kind of dynamic flexibility.

Go read the rest. As Marc points out,

The ability to detain and question senior terrorist operatives is not a luxury we can do without; it is essential to preventing new attacks on our country.

Right now the administration is closing the door on that option.

(Yes, Scott Johnson beat me to the better title for this post, I know why the caged bird isn’t singing. Oh well.)

* Commenter Omnibus Driver came to the rescue with the perfect title, The Silence of the Loins. Thank you!

Pantybomber pleads not guilty

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Not that this should come as a surprise,
Not Guilty Plea Entered for Christmas Day Bombing Suspect

A not guilty plea was entered on behalf of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged with attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

Mr. Abdulmutallab was arraigned Friday on six charges. The most severe carries up to life in prison — the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill nearly 300 people.

The hearing at federal court in Detroit was brief. Mr. Abdulmutallab walked into the courtroom wearing a white T-shirt, pants and tennis shoes. He answered “yes” in English when asked if he understood the charges against him. After that, his lawyer said Mr. Abdulmutallab would stand mute to the charges. The U.S. magistrate judge said a not guilty plea would be entered on his behalf.

U.S. Marshals Service said Mr. Abdulmutallab was in a dark Chevy Suburban that drove into an underground entrance. Outside the courthouse, authorities set up metal barricades outside the courthouse and limiting foot traffic in the area. A protester stood holding a sign that read: “No U.S. Rights For Terrorists.”

Experts say that with so much evidence stacked against Mr. Abdulmutallab, his defense team is left with few options as the case moves forward. Attorneys outside the case say Mr. Abdulmutallab can challenge incriminating statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, seek a mental-health exam for Mr. Abdulmutallab — and seriously consider a plea deal.

Yup, that they’ll do.

US gets around to cancelling pantybomber visa

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Boy, now he’s in real trouble; Obama administration revokes U.S. visa of accused Nigerian bomber. I guess they had to wait until they got back from Christmas break.

As Tommy Christopher Andrew Malcolm (with apologies!) puts it,

That will show him and who knows how many others that the Obama administration really means business.

Yup, “the system worked,” alright.

MI5 told US about pantybomber a year ago

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Gordon Brown’s office declares that the UK notified the US over a year ago about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s links to terrorism:

MI5 told US about Detroit bomber’s terror links ‘a year ago’
Britain told American intelligence agents more than a year ago that the Detroit bomber had links to extremists, according to Downing Street.

The prime minister’s spokesman indicated that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was named in a file of people based in Britain who had made contact with radical Muslim preachers. The file was said to have been sent to the US authorities in 2008.


There is no suggestion that the US did not act on intelligence information that they received from the UK.”

Meanwhile at the US,

White House sources disputed the Downing Street account, stating that no such intelligence information was passed by Britain before the attempted Christmas Day attacks. The White House declined to respond officially.

Amazing that the Obama administration didn’t say that it’s all Bush’s fault since he was president then. But hey, President Obama briefed on Christmas terror threats days before Abdulmutallab incident

President Obama was briefed on potential holiday threats just three days before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda ties tried to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day, according to a report.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller were at the briefing.

Administrative officials admitted after the attempted attack that they had “bits and pieces” of information that if knitted together could have foiled the Christmas Day plot.

“Never mind!”

Pantybomber may be allowed to cop a plea

Monday, January 4th, 2010

In the Washington Post (h/t Big Government):

[John O. Brennan,] President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser on Sunday defended the administration’s decision to try in federal court the man charged with attempting to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day and indicated that he would be offered a plea agreement to persuade him to reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda operations in Yemen.

But, hey, Brennan says

Brennan also made the sharpest rebuttal to date to former vice president Richard B. Cheney’s charge last week that the administration is insufficiently aggressive against terrorism and does not appreciate that the nation is at war.

Because, after all, coping a plea is exactly what a country at war allows an enemy combatant to do, isn’t it?

Before you answer that question, ponder Lowballing Death: Keeping the Nothwest 253 Numbers Down, and bear in mind the reason it didn’t happen was because the detonator failed.


UPDATE, Tuesday 5 January
This isn’t prosecuting a war. This is playing Law & Order.”

Coming right up: The bald, fat, naked scan

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Yup, it was just a matter of time. The Dutch are now getting the machines for the bald, fat & naked scan:

Dutch to use full body scans for U.S. flights

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport will begin using body scanners on all passengers taking flights to the United States following the attempted terrorist attack on a U.S.-bound flight on Christmas Day, the Dutch interior minister said Wednesday.

The millimeter-wave body scanners will be in place in about three weeks, Dutch Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst told a news conference at The Hague.

Now, in addition to not being able to leave your seat for 1 hour prior to takeoff or landing, not having access to any of your personal property for that period of time, getting a full pat-down and luggage search (new rules), plus having to remove your shoes, surrender any containers with more than 3.5 ounces of fluid – including breast milk for your baby – and enduring miles-long lines at the airport (old rules), the airport staff gets a nice look at your privates.


My joy is complete.

Pantybomber Abdulmutallab’s al-Qaeda London connection

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

From the London Times:
Al-Qaeda ‘groomed Abdulmutallab in London’

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London, advertised speakers including political figures, human rights lawyers and former Guantánamo detainees.

One lecture, Jihad v Terrorism, was billed as “a lecture on the Islamic position with respect to jihad”.

Security sources are concerned that the picture emerging of his undergraduate years suggests that he was recruited by al-Qaeda in London. Security sources said that Islamist radicalisation was rife on university campuses, especially in London, and that college authorities had “a patchy record in facing up to the problem”. Previous anti-terrorist inquiries have uncovered evidence of extremists using political meetings and religious study circles to identify potential recruits.

There’s a pattern:

He is the fourth president of a London student Islamic society to face terrorist charges in three years. One is facing a retrial on charges that he was involved in the 2006 liquid bomb plot to blow up airliners. Two others have been convicted of terrorist offences since 2007.

Well-to-do, educated, living in the West, and ripe for al-Qaeda indoctrination.

As it turns out, The CIA also knew about Abdulmutallab.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post had this paragraph,

Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials. Authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the probe, the officials said.

The paragraph has since been changed to

Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials.

Commenting on the deleted “Authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the probe, the officials said,” Marc Thiessen writes,

Holding out hope? Change his mind? Are they kidding? A terrorist like Abdulmutallab is not a common criminal who should be told he has the “right to remain silent.” He is an enemy combatant, who tried to commit an act of war against the United States of America. He possesses vital intelligence about the terrorist network that deployed him to attack America, and may be planning still more attacks. The Obama administration has a responsibility to make him give up that information. Treating him like a criminal is an abdication of that responsibility, and puts our nation at risk.

Something for President Obama to think about, whenever he gets around to returning from his Hawaiian vacation.

Speaking of the Obama vacation, maybe it’s time Obama stayed off the links.

Handling problems with hope and change

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Politico explains it (emphasis added):
Handling problems the Obama way:

There is a sense of déjà vu in the Obama administration’s response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. A by-now familiar pattern has been established for dealing with unexpected problems.

First, White House aides downplay the notion that something may have gone wrong on their part. While staying out of the spotlight, the president conveys his efforts to address the situation and his feelings about it through administration officials. After a few days, the White House concedes on the issue, and perhaps Barack Obama even steps out to address it.

And then there’s a terrorist attack:

But the fact that the issue now is a terrorist incident — albeit an unsuccessful one — makes the stakes much higher, and the White House’s usual approach more questionable. That this test of his leadership comes while he’s on vacation in tropical Hawaii further complicates things.

That’s not the only complication. Mark Steyn ponders the difference between an “alleged suspect” and an enemy combatant:

There’s a difference between an alleged suspect (which is what he is is the president’s fantasy) and an enemy combatant (which is what he is in reality). If this were a war, we would question him about who he hooked up with in Yemen, who did he meet with in London, and maybe get a lead on attacks to come. Instead, the authorities, having issued the Knickerbomber a multi-entry visa, having permitted him to board the plane, and having failed to detect his incendiary unwear, now allow him to lawyer up and ensure that we’ll never know who he knew in Yemen or anywhere else.

The thing is, you have enemy combatants in a war. Defining it so would certainly not fall within the definition of “unexpected problems”, would it?

It’s much easier to resort to damage control in five easy steps.