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Rethinking the Criminal-Justice Model

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”



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