In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Sessions skewers John Brennan for suggesting that we would lose no intelligence by Mirandizing terrorists and that there really is no difference between the military and civilian tribunals. (As a rhetorical matter, this is a silly argument for the Obami to make, of course. They accused the Bushies of shredding constitutional rights, and now there is no difference between the two?) Well, this is the corner in which the Obami now find themselves — making specious arguments that knowledgeable people can easily swat down.
Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that, indeed, Brennan “just doesn’t understand the law.” They write:
A suspect held as an enemy combatant in military custody has no right to be Mirandized and no right to remain silent. None whatsoever. An enemy combatant does get access to a lawyer to help him challenge his detention as an enemy combatant. And we’re confident that the government’s lawyers would have had no trouble convincing a judge that Abdulmutallab — a man caught trying to ignite a bomb in his underwear while on a plane, who then said before he was Mirandized that he’s a member of al Qaeda — is an enemy of the United States, not a common criminal. But that lawyer would not be present during interrogation, and we would not have to get Abdulmutallab’s consent before questioning him. The only naivete in evidence here is Brennan’s belief that the presence of a lawyer makes no difference. That would be news to the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly held that it is vital to protecting a criminal defendant’s — as opposed to an enemy combatant’s — rights that he have access to a lawyer at all times after arrest, including during government interviews.
One wonders if Brennan is really so uninformed or simply the designated spinner charged with fending off the onslaught of criticism following the decision to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber. As Burck and Perino note, we are not talking here about how the terrorist would be tried. That can be decided later. (“Once Abdulmutallab had been thoroughly interrogated, the administration would have been free to choose whether to charge him in the civilian or military system [though we think the latter would be preferable].”)
Nor, as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey points out, was the decision preordained by any Bush-era decision or policy. He writes:
Contrary to what the White House homeland security adviser and the attorney general have suggested, if not said outright, not only was there no authority or policy in place under the Bush administration requiring that all those detained in the United States be treated as criminal defendants, but relevant authority was and is the opposite. The Supreme Court held in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that “indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized” but also said in the same case that detention for the purpose of neutralizing an unlawful enemy combatant is permissible and that the only right of such a combatant — even if he is a citizen, and Abdulmutallab is not — is to challenge his classification as such a combatant in a habeas corpus proceeding. This does not include the right to remain silent or the right to a lawyer, but only such legal assistance as may be necessary to file a habeas corpus petition within a reasonable time.
That was the basis on which Mukasey authorized Jose Padilla to get a lawyer (merely to file a habeas petition). Echoing Burck and Perino, Mukasey explains, “There was thus no legal or policy compulsion to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant, at least initially, and every reason to treat him as an intelligence asset to be exploited promptly.” That would have been possible had the Obami set up the High Value Interrogation unit. But they hadn’t, of course. So FBI agents with no detailed information about Abdulmutallab were given the job of interrogating the al-Qaeda-trained operative.
The problem here, which Sessions, Mukasey, Burck, and Perino (as well as countless others) have spotted, is that the Obami let their lefty lawyers’ ideology go unchecked, interfering with the primary duty of the administration, namely to gather information and prevent further attacks on Americans. That is inexcusable. No amount of fakery or misdirection by Obama’s advisers can conceal that.