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.