Commentary Magazine


Topic: High Value Interrogation Group

The Least Transparent Administration

Among the Obama administration’s wildly inaccurate self-descriptors is that it is the most “transparent administration in history.” That is — as we have repeatedly seen in the national security  and civil rights realms– nonsense. We see it again in the Times Square jihadist attack. Even the Washington Post editors have had enough of the administration’s aversion to disclosure:

But much is still not known about the administration’s handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the “ticking time bomb” exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has also not publicly addressed whether it consulted with intelligence officials on the best way to deal with Mr. Shahzad. Nor has it said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) — a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases — was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

As in the Fort Hood massacre, the administration resists scrutiny here. It’s odd indeed that the Obama brain trust is willing — anxious even — to give KSM a public forum to spout his jihadist propaganda (we’re not afraid, pronounces Holder) but can’t discuss its own approach to jihadist terrorists in open hearings and press conferences. Is this the usual thin-skinned irritation with critics at work? Or does the administration at some level understand how out of sync with the public is its approach to terrorists?

House and Senate Democrats have shirked their responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight. We may have to wait until one or both houses flip to Republican control before we have chairmen willing to demand documents and grill Obama officials. We hope that the lessons learned from such investigations do not come too late to prevent yet another attack on the homeland.

Among the Obama administration’s wildly inaccurate self-descriptors is that it is the most “transparent administration in history.” That is — as we have repeatedly seen in the national security  and civil rights realms– nonsense. We see it again in the Times Square jihadist attack. Even the Washington Post editors have had enough of the administration’s aversion to disclosure:

But much is still not known about the administration’s handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the “ticking time bomb” exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has also not publicly addressed whether it consulted with intelligence officials on the best way to deal with Mr. Shahzad. Nor has it said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) — a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases — was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

As in the Fort Hood massacre, the administration resists scrutiny here. It’s odd indeed that the Obama brain trust is willing — anxious even — to give KSM a public forum to spout his jihadist propaganda (we’re not afraid, pronounces Holder) but can’t discuss its own approach to jihadist terrorists in open hearings and press conferences. Is this the usual thin-skinned irritation with critics at work? Or does the administration at some level understand how out of sync with the public is its approach to terrorists?

House and Senate Democrats have shirked their responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight. We may have to wait until one or both houses flip to Republican control before we have chairmen willing to demand documents and grill Obama officials. We hope that the lessons learned from such investigations do not come too late to prevent yet another attack on the homeland.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

Ben Smith spots bias at the Washington Post.

CEOs spots the worst place to do business: “California ranks last among the states and Washington D.C. as a place to do business, according to Chief Executive magazine. It is the second year in a row that the state was given that dubious distinction.”

Stuart Rothenberg spots trouble for Russ Feingold: “When former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) announced recently that he wouldn’t enter the 2010 Senate race and challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, many of us crossed the state off our list of competitive races. Maybe we were a bit premature. Two more Republicans — former state Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel and businessman Ron Johnson — are joining the two GOPers already in the contest, businessman Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake, and the newly expanded field is just one reason for reconsidering my knee-jerk judgment. None of these four hopefuls possesses all of the qualities of the ideal challenger. But this cycle, Republicans may not need ideal challengers to win, even in the Badger State.”

And Rothenberg spots a pickup possibility for the GOP in the Hawaii House special election. “According to recent polling, Republicans now have a legitimate chance to takeover Hawaii’s 1st District in this month’s special election. What was once only a scenario now looks like a real possibility, and even Democratic observers are worried about the race.”

Victor Davis Hanson spots the pattern: “The jihadist symptoms of Major Hasan were ignored; General Casey lamented the possible ramifications of Hasan’s killings to the army’s diversity program; the warnings of Mr. Mutallab’s father about his son’s jihadist tendencies were ignored but the latter’s Miranda rights were not; and the Times Square would-be bomber was quite rashly and on little evidence falsely equated with a ‘white’ bomber with perhaps domestic-terrorism overtones (when it looks like there is a Pakistani radical-Islamist connection) — a sort of pattern has been established, one both implicit and explicit.”

It’s not hard to spot a rising GOP star: “Once again showing that he means to shake up Trenton, Gov. Christopher J. Christie declined on Monday to reappoint a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court, instead appointing someone who he said would show the restraint that was missing from the court. … Speaking to reporters in Trenton, Mr. Christie had only kind words for Justice Wallace, but he described the historically liberal court as ‘out of control’ over the last three decades, usurping the roles of the governor and the Legislature in setting social and tax policies.” (As a bonus, Christie succeeded in freaking out the Democrats: “New Jersey Democrats, furious with Gov. Chris Christie over his decision to replace a moderate African-American on the state Supreme Court, vowed Tuesday not even to consider the Republican governor’s nominee.”)

Fox News spots the latest evidence that Obama is failing to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions or to isolate the regime. “Two of the world’s worst dictators are thumbing their noses at the U.N. as it tries to shore up support for increased sanctions against Iran. According to press reports, Iran secretly agreed last month to provide Zimbabwe with oil in return for exclusive access to the crippled African nation’s precious uranium ore.”

Jake Tapper spots a sign of improvement in the Obama administration’s terror-fighting operation: “ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing. After the arrest of the failed Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Obama administration was criticized for not having yet made operational the HIG, a special interrogation team for high-value terrorist suspects, though the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had announced its recommendation to form such a group in August 2009.”

Newsbusters spots the left down in the dumps that the Times Square bomber wasn’t a Tea Partier: “It appears that it wasn’t only media types such as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer who were disappointed that the Times Square bombing suspect turned out to be a Muslim. They were joined by virtually the entire leftwing blogosphere in their frustration that the suspect wasn’t a tea party activist or a member of a ‘rightwing’ militia group.”

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The Gates Minuet

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is perpetually walking a tightrope. He is, after all, a member of the president’s cabinet, and if he wants to remain so, he must display loyalty and hew to administration policy. But he indisputably has little patience for the notion that we can endear ourselves to Islamic fascists or Iranian despots. His department is, unlike the rest of the federal government, on a strict budget, so he must make the most of what limited funds he has. And in all this, he is incapable of lying. So we have a series of pained but telling comments from him.

After the announced decision to deploy 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan (a position he favored), it was up to Gates (along with Hillary Clinton) to soft-pedal the 18-month deadline. He took to the talk shows and Congressional hearings to assure everyone that Obama didn’t really mean a fixed deadline and that we’d of course stick it out to achieve our aims, relying on conditions on the ground.

On the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, he would only say this was Eric Holder’s call. And while he was careful not to slam his cabinet colleague, in an exchange with Sen. John McCain, he left little doubt about what he thought of the decision:

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

Nor does Gates want to suggest that there is any hope that we can talk the mullahs out of their nukes. On Iran:

Speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with Turkish leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe that Iran and the West are close to a nuclear deal. “I don’t have the sense that we’re close to an agreement,” Gates told reporters, according to Reuters. “If they are prepared to take up the original proposal of the P-5 plus one of delivering 1,200 kilograms of their low enriched uranium, all at once to an agreed party, I think there would be a response to that,” he added. He described Iran’s response to Obama’s diplomatic outreach as “disappointing.”

But alas, he is part of the administration and voiced the Obama line that the purpose of sanctions would be to get the mullahs back to the table, not to affect regime change.

Gates is unlikely to please either the Left or the Right. The Left would rather that Joe Biden run national-security policy and that the Gates position on Afghanistan had been rejected. They smarted as he fuzzed up the 18-month deadline that Obama had thrown to the Left as a consolation prize. Conservatives would certainly prefer he not make excuses for cuts in missile defense and be more critical of Holder’s serial follies. But those conservatives who expect more of Gates should ask themselves: would the administration’s national-security policy be worse without him? The answer, I would suggest, is almost certainly yes. So the Gates minuet continues.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is perpetually walking a tightrope. He is, after all, a member of the president’s cabinet, and if he wants to remain so, he must display loyalty and hew to administration policy. But he indisputably has little patience for the notion that we can endear ourselves to Islamic fascists or Iranian despots. His department is, unlike the rest of the federal government, on a strict budget, so he must make the most of what limited funds he has. And in all this, he is incapable of lying. So we have a series of pained but telling comments from him.

After the announced decision to deploy 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan (a position he favored), it was up to Gates (along with Hillary Clinton) to soft-pedal the 18-month deadline. He took to the talk shows and Congressional hearings to assure everyone that Obama didn’t really mean a fixed deadline and that we’d of course stick it out to achieve our aims, relying on conditions on the ground.

On the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, he would only say this was Eric Holder’s call. And while he was careful not to slam his cabinet colleague, in an exchange with Sen. John McCain, he left little doubt about what he thought of the decision:

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

Nor does Gates want to suggest that there is any hope that we can talk the mullahs out of their nukes. On Iran:

Speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with Turkish leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe that Iran and the West are close to a nuclear deal. “I don’t have the sense that we’re close to an agreement,” Gates told reporters, according to Reuters. “If they are prepared to take up the original proposal of the P-5 plus one of delivering 1,200 kilograms of their low enriched uranium, all at once to an agreed party, I think there would be a response to that,” he added. He described Iran’s response to Obama’s diplomatic outreach as “disappointing.”

But alas, he is part of the administration and voiced the Obama line that the purpose of sanctions would be to get the mullahs back to the table, not to affect regime change.

Gates is unlikely to please either the Left or the Right. The Left would rather that Joe Biden run national-security policy and that the Gates position on Afghanistan had been rejected. They smarted as he fuzzed up the 18-month deadline that Obama had thrown to the Left as a consolation prize. Conservatives would certainly prefer he not make excuses for cuts in missile defense and be more critical of Holder’s serial follies. But those conservatives who expect more of Gates should ask themselves: would the administration’s national-security policy be worse without him? The answer, I would suggest, is almost certainly yes. So the Gates minuet continues.

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Wheels Coming off Obama Anti-Terror Approach

Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Blanche Lincoln are joining Republicans to up-end plans for a civilian trial for KSM by denying funding to transport and try them in the U.S. ABC News reports:

It is unclear when or how this measure would come to a vote, but it is abundantly clear that President Obama’s plan to use the American justice system to try suspected 9/11 conspirators is in serious jeopardy.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, who faces a tough reelection bid, was asked by a reporter at a press conference today if the President is being “tone deaf” in asking moderate Democrats to support his plan.

“I’d be tone deaf if I didn’t speak for the people,” said Lincoln, questioning the “cost, security and appropriateness” of using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists. . .

“It’s hard to bring the people of New York City and Little Rock together but they have done that,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, of the growing opposition to civilian trials. Graham favors trying suspected 9/11 conspirators like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in military trials at Guantanamo Bay, where they are currently held. . .

Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain were there as well. (“Lieberman said the trial of suspected 9/11 conspirators in civilian court as ‘common criminals’ would be like ‘justice in Alice in Wonderland. . . The rule of law that should be tried according to is the rule of the law of war. Justice can’t be blind to terror threat.”) McCain took the opportunity to also voice criticism of the 50-minute interrogation of the Christmas Day bomber: “I have some experience with interrogation and 50 minutes does not get you what you need.”

Meanwhile, in a senate hearing today, Secretary of Defense Gates, under questioning from McCain, was cagey about the decision to try KSM in New York, deferring to Eric Holder. McCain and Gates also went back and forth on the interrogation of Abdulmutallab.

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

McCain said that Holder “has obviously botched this thing very, very badly,” and said he would continue to question how the man’s interrogation was handled.

It is hard to see that there is much support for the Obama anti-terror gambits. Whether discussing the KSM trial or the interrogation decisions, the Obama team is increasingly on the defensive and without vocal support even from fellow Democrats. And why would the Democrats defend Obama’s approach? It defies common sense and has proven to be politically toxic. If Obama is going to persist in applying the criminal-justice model to the war against Islamic fundamentalists, he will find himself increasingly isolated. And if Democrats actually mean what they say, they’ll act to cut off funding as well as court jurisdiction in order to prevent Obama and his Justice Department lefty lawyers from continuing on this ill-advised lark.

Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Blanche Lincoln are joining Republicans to up-end plans for a civilian trial for KSM by denying funding to transport and try them in the U.S. ABC News reports:

It is unclear when or how this measure would come to a vote, but it is abundantly clear that President Obama’s plan to use the American justice system to try suspected 9/11 conspirators is in serious jeopardy.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, who faces a tough reelection bid, was asked by a reporter at a press conference today if the President is being “tone deaf” in asking moderate Democrats to support his plan.

“I’d be tone deaf if I didn’t speak for the people,” said Lincoln, questioning the “cost, security and appropriateness” of using civilian courts to try suspected terrorists. . .

“It’s hard to bring the people of New York City and Little Rock together but they have done that,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, of the growing opposition to civilian trials. Graham favors trying suspected 9/11 conspirators like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in military trials at Guantanamo Bay, where they are currently held. . .

Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain were there as well. (“Lieberman said the trial of suspected 9/11 conspirators in civilian court as ‘common criminals’ would be like ‘justice in Alice in Wonderland. . . The rule of law that should be tried according to is the rule of the law of war. Justice can’t be blind to terror threat.”) McCain took the opportunity to also voice criticism of the 50-minute interrogation of the Christmas Day bomber: “I have some experience with interrogation and 50 minutes does not get you what you need.”

Meanwhile, in a senate hearing today, Secretary of Defense Gates, under questioning from McCain, was cagey about the decision to try KSM in New York, deferring to Eric Holder. McCain and Gates also went back and forth on the interrogation of Abdulmutallab.

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

McCain said that Holder “has obviously botched this thing very, very badly,” and said he would continue to question how the man’s interrogation was handled.

It is hard to see that there is much support for the Obama anti-terror gambits. Whether discussing the KSM trial or the interrogation decisions, the Obama team is increasingly on the defensive and without vocal support even from fellow Democrats. And why would the Democrats defend Obama’s approach? It defies common sense and has proven to be politically toxic. If Obama is going to persist in applying the criminal-justice model to the war against Islamic fundamentalists, he will find himself increasingly isolated. And if Democrats actually mean what they say, they’ll act to cut off funding as well as court jurisdiction in order to prevent Obama and his Justice Department lefty lawyers from continuing on this ill-advised lark.

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Michael Hayden vs. Obami’s Folly

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is the latest and among the most credible critics of the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bombing. He writes:

We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not “an isolated extremist.” He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.

In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?

This is, as Hayden points out, one in a long list of misjudgments that began when we limited our interrogations to the Army Field Manual, stripped the CIA of its interrogation responsibilities (and then failed to implement the high-value detainee interrogation team), released the interrogation memos, began the re-investigation of CIA operatives, decided to try KSM, and, of course, determined to close Guantanamo without a reasonable alternative. Our anti-terror policies now have an entirely legalistic cast, and our intelligence-gathering has been subsumed to a new priority: the extension of constitutional protections to terrorists. As Hadyen dryly concludes:

In August, the government unveiled the [ High Value Interrogation Group] for questioning al-Qaeda and announced that the FBI would begin questioning CIA officers about the alleged abuses in the 2004 inspector general’s report. They are apparently still getting organized for the al-Qaeda interrogations. But the interrogations of CIA personnel are well underway.

Aside from the political controversy this has created and the lack of confidence it has inspired among the American people, the question remains whether we are now safer, and our intelligence agencies, more focused. Almost certainly, we are neither. This has been a grand experiment — allowing leftist lawyers to run our national-security policy. Perhaps after a year, we can now see how foolhardy the endeavor was. If the president cannot pivot (just as on domestic policy), it is time for Congress to step forward, use the power of the purse, and exercise its authority over the federal courts’ jurisdiction. Members of Congress, too, have an obligation to attend to the national security of the country. They would be well advised to review, assess, and then depart from the Obami’s ill-fated escapade.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is the latest and among the most credible critics of the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bombing. He writes:

We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not “an isolated extremist.” He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.

In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?

This is, as Hayden points out, one in a long list of misjudgments that began when we limited our interrogations to the Army Field Manual, stripped the CIA of its interrogation responsibilities (and then failed to implement the high-value detainee interrogation team), released the interrogation memos, began the re-investigation of CIA operatives, decided to try KSM, and, of course, determined to close Guantanamo without a reasonable alternative. Our anti-terror policies now have an entirely legalistic cast, and our intelligence-gathering has been subsumed to a new priority: the extension of constitutional protections to terrorists. As Hadyen dryly concludes:

In August, the government unveiled the [ High Value Interrogation Group] for questioning al-Qaeda and announced that the FBI would begin questioning CIA officers about the alleged abuses in the 2004 inspector general’s report. They are apparently still getting organized for the al-Qaeda interrogations. But the interrogations of CIA personnel are well underway.

Aside from the political controversy this has created and the lack of confidence it has inspired among the American people, the question remains whether we are now safer, and our intelligence agencies, more focused. Almost certainly, we are neither. This has been a grand experiment — allowing leftist lawyers to run our national-security policy. Perhaps after a year, we can now see how foolhardy the endeavor was. If the president cannot pivot (just as on domestic policy), it is time for Congress to step forward, use the power of the purse, and exercise its authority over the federal courts’ jurisdiction. Members of Congress, too, have an obligation to attend to the national security of the country. They would be well advised to review, assess, and then depart from the Obami’s ill-fated escapade.

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It Isn’t Too Late to Interrogate Abdulmutallab

Dennis Blair, for reasons not entirely clear (a parting shot? a spasm of guilt for a job poorly done?), took a big swing at the Obami yesterday where they’re most vulnerable: their knee-jerk fixation on treating Islamic terrorists as common criminals. This report explains:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair faulted the decision not to use the “High Value Interrogation Group” (HIG) to question alleged al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose — 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,” Blair told the Senate homeland security committee.

The intelligence chief said the interrogation group was created by the White House last year to handle overseas cases but will be expanded now to domestic ones. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have,” he added.

Later in the day Blair was forced to walk it back with the “my words were misconstrued” lingo that is the telltale sign of being big-footed by an irate White House. Still, the damage had been done. Blair’s complaint is precisely the one that critics have been making since it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab chatted with the FBI for a bit and then clammed up, having been handed a full panoply of constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent. No more dot-connecting information will come from him unless he disregards his lawyer’s admonitions or, more likely, makes a plea deal.

It seems the Obami operate on cruise control — set the car in motion, hit the button, and never touch the controls again. The lack of thoughtful analysis or consideration is breathtaking. As the report notes, “Blair, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael E. Leiter and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that they were not consulted about the charging decision.” Well, with Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department apparently running anti-terror policy, no one thought that those responsible for preventing future attacks and gathering critical intelligence data might want to weigh in on the matter.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t too late. We can still declare Abdulmutallab an enemy combatant and ship him off for questioning and a military tribunal. Sure we’ve lost time, and it was a grievous error not to have used all the tools at our disposal to extract information, but why compound the error by leaving him in the criminal justice process? Blair has admitted that the Obami erred, so someone should ask him why Mueller, Leiter, Napolitano, and maybe even the president (he is in charge, right?) aren’t now considering how to limit the damage done by the ill-advised and unthinking actions taken on Christmas Day.

Dennis Blair, for reasons not entirely clear (a parting shot? a spasm of guilt for a job poorly done?), took a big swing at the Obami yesterday where they’re most vulnerable: their knee-jerk fixation on treating Islamic terrorists as common criminals. This report explains:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair faulted the decision not to use the “High Value Interrogation Group” (HIG) to question alleged al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose — 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,” Blair told the Senate homeland security committee.

The intelligence chief said the interrogation group was created by the White House last year to handle overseas cases but will be expanded now to domestic ones. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have,” he added.

Later in the day Blair was forced to walk it back with the “my words were misconstrued” lingo that is the telltale sign of being big-footed by an irate White House. Still, the damage had been done. Blair’s complaint is precisely the one that critics have been making since it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab chatted with the FBI for a bit and then clammed up, having been handed a full panoply of constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent. No more dot-connecting information will come from him unless he disregards his lawyer’s admonitions or, more likely, makes a plea deal.

It seems the Obami operate on cruise control — set the car in motion, hit the button, and never touch the controls again. The lack of thoughtful analysis or consideration is breathtaking. As the report notes, “Blair, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael E. Leiter and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that they were not consulted about the charging decision.” Well, with Eric Holder and the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department apparently running anti-terror policy, no one thought that those responsible for preventing future attacks and gathering critical intelligence data might want to weigh in on the matter.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t too late. We can still declare Abdulmutallab an enemy combatant and ship him off for questioning and a military tribunal. Sure we’ve lost time, and it was a grievous error not to have used all the tools at our disposal to extract information, but why compound the error by leaving him in the criminal justice process? Blair has admitted that the Obami erred, so someone should ask him why Mueller, Leiter, Napolitano, and maybe even the president (he is in charge, right?) aren’t now considering how to limit the damage done by the ill-advised and unthinking actions taken on Christmas Day.

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