Commentary Magazine


Topic: intelligence chief

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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Flotsam and Jetsam

Noemie Emery remembers Dean Barnett. Mickey Kaus adds: “This past year I would gladly have traded the entire national staffs of the New York Times, Washington Post and all four TV networks for any two of Barnett, Deborah Orin, Marjorie Williams and Cathy Seipp. They were all immune to Democratic BS.”

Obama’s TSA nominee withdraws (gets dumped?) on a busy news day.

George Will reminds us that the fallout from Obamaism could be much worse than a single congressional election: “Today, Democrats worrying about a reprise of 1994 should worry more about a rerun of the 1966 midterm elections, which began a Republican resurgence that presaged victories in seven of the next 10 presidential elections. The 2008 elections gave liberals the curse of opportunity, and they have used it to reveal themselves ruinously.”

Is Obama bending to reality? “President Barack Obama suggested he’s open to Congress passing a scaled-back health-care bill, potentially sacrificing much of his signature policy initiative as chaos engulfed Capitol Hill Wednesday. Top Democrats said they would press ahead despite growing doubts among rank-and-file members that they can pass a bill they’ve been laboring over for nearly a year. A host of ideas offered in recent days have lost favor.” Lost favor? Perhaps “melted in the aftermath of post-Brown panic” is a more precise description.

Rep. Bart Stupak seems to agree with a scaled-down health-care bill: “Tuesday’s results have created an opportunity for President Obama to deliver a final health-care reform bill. It may mean a scaled back proposal, but a proposal that focuses on the most critical needs of Americans. I remain confident that Congress will pass a health-care bill that finally grants Americans access to affordable, quality health-care coverage.”

Another non-achievement by the Obami: “Just a month after world leaders fashioned a tentative and nonbinding agreement at the climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen, the deal already appears at risk of coming undone, the top United Nations climate official warned on Wednesday.”

If Dennis Blair is on the way out, he’s going out in style, dumping on Obama’s antiterror approach: “The nation’s intelligence chief said Wednesday that the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect should have been treated as a terrorism detainee when the plane landed. That would have meant initial questioning by special interrogators. … Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he was not consulted on whether Abdulmutallab should be questioned by the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group or HIG.”

But then Blair is forced to walk it back in a late-afternoon statement: “‘The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody,’ the statement said. ‘They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.’” How many Friday news dumps will Blair survive?

More Democratic victims: “Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley Tuesday night altered the national political landscape in the health care debate and could have profound repercussions for the Democratic majority in Congress, including Arkansas’ closely-watched U.S. Senate race. … Two-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln, whose seat will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation in 2010, continues to lose ground in her favorable ratings as well as her job performance among Arkansas voters.” Overall, only 38 percent approve of her performance, while 56 disapprove.

Noemie Emery remembers Dean Barnett. Mickey Kaus adds: “This past year I would gladly have traded the entire national staffs of the New York Times, Washington Post and all four TV networks for any two of Barnett, Deborah Orin, Marjorie Williams and Cathy Seipp. They were all immune to Democratic BS.”

Obama’s TSA nominee withdraws (gets dumped?) on a busy news day.

George Will reminds us that the fallout from Obamaism could be much worse than a single congressional election: “Today, Democrats worrying about a reprise of 1994 should worry more about a rerun of the 1966 midterm elections, which began a Republican resurgence that presaged victories in seven of the next 10 presidential elections. The 2008 elections gave liberals the curse of opportunity, and they have used it to reveal themselves ruinously.”

Is Obama bending to reality? “President Barack Obama suggested he’s open to Congress passing a scaled-back health-care bill, potentially sacrificing much of his signature policy initiative as chaos engulfed Capitol Hill Wednesday. Top Democrats said they would press ahead despite growing doubts among rank-and-file members that they can pass a bill they’ve been laboring over for nearly a year. A host of ideas offered in recent days have lost favor.” Lost favor? Perhaps “melted in the aftermath of post-Brown panic” is a more precise description.

Rep. Bart Stupak seems to agree with a scaled-down health-care bill: “Tuesday’s results have created an opportunity for President Obama to deliver a final health-care reform bill. It may mean a scaled back proposal, but a proposal that focuses on the most critical needs of Americans. I remain confident that Congress will pass a health-care bill that finally grants Americans access to affordable, quality health-care coverage.”

Another non-achievement by the Obami: “Just a month after world leaders fashioned a tentative and nonbinding agreement at the climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen, the deal already appears at risk of coming undone, the top United Nations climate official warned on Wednesday.”

If Dennis Blair is on the way out, he’s going out in style, dumping on Obama’s antiterror approach: “The nation’s intelligence chief said Wednesday that the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect should have been treated as a terrorism detainee when the plane landed. That would have meant initial questioning by special interrogators. … Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he was not consulted on whether Abdulmutallab should be questioned by the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group or HIG.”

But then Blair is forced to walk it back in a late-afternoon statement: “‘The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody,’ the statement said. ‘They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.’” How many Friday news dumps will Blair survive?

More Democratic victims: “Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown’s upset victory over Democrat Martha Coakley Tuesday night altered the national political landscape in the health care debate and could have profound repercussions for the Democratic majority in Congress, including Arkansas’ closely-watched U.S. Senate race. … Two-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln, whose seat will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation in 2010, continues to lose ground in her favorable ratings as well as her job performance among Arkansas voters.” Overall, only 38 percent approve of her performance, while 56 disapprove.

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