Commentary Magazine


Topic: court-appointed lawyer

Consensus Forms: Obama’s Terror Approach Is Mindless

Broad-based criticism is mounting in response to the Obami’s unthinking fixation on handling terrorists within the criminal-justice model. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair got the ball rolling in a testimony concerning the Christmas Day bomber. Stephen Hayes quotes his testimony, in which he acknowledges that no thought was given to designating Abdulmutallab for questioning by the high-value interrogation unit:

Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and—duh! [here Blair theatrically slaps palm to forehead]—we didn’t put it [into effect] then. That’s what we will do now. .  .  .I was not consulted; the decision was made on the scene. It seemed logical to the people there, but it should have been taken using this HIG format at a higher level.

Hayes explains: “We had a load of information on Abdulmutallab—his background, his movements, his contacts—that never came into play in the cursory questioning of him. And we missed a chance to get a load of information from him which could have greatly aided efforts to head off future attacks and destroy al Qaeda assets in Yemen and elsewhere.”

He is not alone in his condemnation of the Obami’s approach. The Washington Post editors agree that “the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model. . . The administration claims Mr. Abdulmutallab provided valuable information — and probably exhausted his knowledge of al-Qaeda operations — before he clammed up. This was immediately after he was read his Miranda rights and provided with a court-appointed lawyer. The truth is, we may never know whether the administration made the right call or whether it squandered a valuable opportunity.”

How could this be, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Obama made the call. This is his vision of how we should respond to terrorism. He is the author of the “not Bush” anti-terror approach. He has empowered Eric Holder to wage war on the intelligence community and to put Justice Department lawyers, rather than intelligence officials, in the driver seat. If this seems to have been foolhardy and fraught with peril, it will take bipartisan action to reverse it. Oversight hearings, use of the power of the purse, and ultimately legislation to determine the jurisdiction of the federal course are all within the purview of Congress. As Democratic lawmakers have learned on domestic policy, following Obama’s lead is politically unwise. Perhaps it is time they showed some independence and exercised their own constitutional responsibilities to think through our approach and set a sensible policy for handling terrorists whom we capture. The White House sure isn’t doing so.

Broad-based criticism is mounting in response to the Obami’s unthinking fixation on handling terrorists within the criminal-justice model. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair got the ball rolling in a testimony concerning the Christmas Day bomber. Stephen Hayes quotes his testimony, in which he acknowledges that no thought was given to designating Abdulmutallab for questioning by the high-value interrogation unit:

Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and—duh! [here Blair theatrically slaps palm to forehead]—we didn’t put it [into effect] then. That’s what we will do now. .  .  .I was not consulted; the decision was made on the scene. It seemed logical to the people there, but it should have been taken using this HIG format at a higher level.

Hayes explains: “We had a load of information on Abdulmutallab—his background, his movements, his contacts—that never came into play in the cursory questioning of him. And we missed a chance to get a load of information from him which could have greatly aided efforts to head off future attacks and destroy al Qaeda assets in Yemen and elsewhere.”

He is not alone in his condemnation of the Obami’s approach. The Washington Post editors agree that “the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model. . . The administration claims Mr. Abdulmutallab provided valuable information — and probably exhausted his knowledge of al-Qaeda operations — before he clammed up. This was immediately after he was read his Miranda rights and provided with a court-appointed lawyer. The truth is, we may never know whether the administration made the right call or whether it squandered a valuable opportunity.”

How could this be, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Obama made the call. This is his vision of how we should respond to terrorism. He is the author of the “not Bush” anti-terror approach. He has empowered Eric Holder to wage war on the intelligence community and to put Justice Department lawyers, rather than intelligence officials, in the driver seat. If this seems to have been foolhardy and fraught with peril, it will take bipartisan action to reverse it. Oversight hearings, use of the power of the purse, and ultimately legislation to determine the jurisdiction of the federal course are all within the purview of Congress. As Democratic lawmakers have learned on domestic policy, following Obama’s lead is politically unwise. Perhaps it is time they showed some independence and exercised their own constitutional responsibilities to think through our approach and set a sensible policy for handling terrorists whom we capture. The White House sure isn’t doing so.

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The Price of Lawyering Up

Bill Burck picks up on John Brennan’s comments on Sunday, indicating that we are prepared to “deal” — that is, make a deal and not get tough with the Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab. He explains:

Had Abdulmutallab been designated as an enemy combatant from the start, we would not have had to offer him anything at all in exchange for the information he possesses. He could have been interrogated immediately by professionals without Miranda warnings, without a lawyer, and against his will. Given that he appears to have been willing to talk for awhile before he demanded a lawyer, it is a fair assumption that he would have continued talking if he didn’t have the option of lawyering up. . . . So, here are the perverse incentives for terrorists who come to this country to kill us — assuming you don’t succeed in blowing yourself up and are captured, you will have a right to a lawyer, a right to remain silent, a right to trial by a jury of your “peers,” and the possibility of early release if you cooperate with authorities.

The Obami, their lefty lawyers at the Justice Department, and their media cheerleaders think this is exactly how it’s supposed to work. We show our values by extending Constitutional protections to those who did not enjoy such protections in previous wars. They ignore or indifferent to the fact that we thereby limit out intelligence gathering.

Even if we make a “deal,” valuable time is still lost, leads may evaporate, and information becomes stale. And if he chooses not to “make a deal,” (because, after all, he’s heading for a trial, many appeals and a journey through the ACLU-guided American legal system) we get no information at all. He might well conclude this is the smarter course. You see, after the trial, legal battles for privileges in prison ensue and perhaps a sympathetic judge will spring him at some point in the proceedings. If that’s what he and his lawyers can figure out, he would keep quiet now and we would get zilch. After all, making a deal isn’t a necessity when you can play the American system with a court-appointed lawyer.

What “smoking gun” are we missing by allowing this to unfold? What plots will go undetected? We don’t know. But the Obami think we get brownie points with someone for doing this. And those who are on the plane targeted by the next terrorist plot that might have been uncovered had Abdulmutallab been interrogated as an enemy combatant — what about them? Not much thought is given to them by Eric Holder and his crew.

The gap between the Obami and the rest of the country on this issue is vast, I would suggest. The average American must think this is insanity. We risk American lives so that terrorists will feel better about our justice system? That’s what the president thinks. That’s what his fellow Democrats think as they enable this policy by funding the Obami’s efforts to relocate and try terrorists in the U.S. – as well as by the appalling lack of Congressional oversight to date.

There is however a “solution” to this divergence between popular and leftist elite opinion: the 2010 elections. This should be a hot topic of debate. And soon enough we’ll find out whether Obama is defending “our” values or rather some misbegotten experiment in radical lawyering.

Bill Burck picks up on John Brennan’s comments on Sunday, indicating that we are prepared to “deal” — that is, make a deal and not get tough with the Christmas Day bomber Abdulmutallab. He explains:

Had Abdulmutallab been designated as an enemy combatant from the start, we would not have had to offer him anything at all in exchange for the information he possesses. He could have been interrogated immediately by professionals without Miranda warnings, without a lawyer, and against his will. Given that he appears to have been willing to talk for awhile before he demanded a lawyer, it is a fair assumption that he would have continued talking if he didn’t have the option of lawyering up. . . . So, here are the perverse incentives for terrorists who come to this country to kill us — assuming you don’t succeed in blowing yourself up and are captured, you will have a right to a lawyer, a right to remain silent, a right to trial by a jury of your “peers,” and the possibility of early release if you cooperate with authorities.

The Obami, their lefty lawyers at the Justice Department, and their media cheerleaders think this is exactly how it’s supposed to work. We show our values by extending Constitutional protections to those who did not enjoy such protections in previous wars. They ignore or indifferent to the fact that we thereby limit out intelligence gathering.

Even if we make a “deal,” valuable time is still lost, leads may evaporate, and information becomes stale. And if he chooses not to “make a deal,” (because, after all, he’s heading for a trial, many appeals and a journey through the ACLU-guided American legal system) we get no information at all. He might well conclude this is the smarter course. You see, after the trial, legal battles for privileges in prison ensue and perhaps a sympathetic judge will spring him at some point in the proceedings. If that’s what he and his lawyers can figure out, he would keep quiet now and we would get zilch. After all, making a deal isn’t a necessity when you can play the American system with a court-appointed lawyer.

What “smoking gun” are we missing by allowing this to unfold? What plots will go undetected? We don’t know. But the Obami think we get brownie points with someone for doing this. And those who are on the plane targeted by the next terrorist plot that might have been uncovered had Abdulmutallab been interrogated as an enemy combatant — what about them? Not much thought is given to them by Eric Holder and his crew.

The gap between the Obami and the rest of the country on this issue is vast, I would suggest. The average American must think this is insanity. We risk American lives so that terrorists will feel better about our justice system? That’s what the president thinks. That’s what his fellow Democrats think as they enable this policy by funding the Obami’s efforts to relocate and try terrorists in the U.S. – as well as by the appalling lack of Congressional oversight to date.

There is however a “solution” to this divergence between popular and leftist elite opinion: the 2010 elections. This should be a hot topic of debate. And soon enough we’ll find out whether Obama is defending “our” values or rather some misbegotten experiment in radical lawyering.

Read Less




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