Senators rebelling at lawfare treatment of underwear bomber

Byron York:

A bipartisan revolt is brewing in the Senate over the Obama administration's handling of accused Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. A small but growing number of lawmakers is asking the president to undo what many regard as the disastrously wrong-headed decision to grant Abdulmutallab full American constitutional rights. Once he was told he had the right to remain silent, the accused terrorist stopped talking to U.S. investigators, possibly denying them valuable intelligence about the threat from al Qaeda.

The revolt started last week when top administration counterterrorism officials testified they had not been consulted about the decision to read Abdulmutallab the Miranda warning and give him a court-appointed lawyer. Several senators were aghast, including Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, the committee's ranking Republican Susan Collins, and the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican Jeff Sessions. How could the Justice Department have done something so consequential without even consulting the administration's own experts on terrorism and intelligence?

The anger on Capitol Hill grew over the weekend, when the Associated Press reported that local FBI agents in Detroit were allowed to question Abdulmutallab for just 50 minutes before he went into surgery for several hours. During that time, Justice Department lawyers in Washington intervened and Abdulmutallab was later read his Miranda rights.

That was bad enough, but what really made lawmakers angry was when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," insisted the 50-minute interrogation had been entirely sufficient for investigators to learn everything they needed to know about the al Qaeda plot to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

"You really don't think that if you'd interrogated him longer that you might have gotten more information?" asked Fox's Chris Wallace.

"Well, FBI interrogators believe they got valuable intelligence and were able to get all that they could out of him," Gibbs said.

"All they could?" Wallace asked.

"Yeah," Gibbs said.

That was it for some lawmakers. "It is now clear beyond doubt that the administration squandered an invaluable opportunity to gather intelligence from a captured terrorist fresh from al Qaeda's operation in Yemen," Sessions said. "But this weekend, the president's spokesman actually argued that the right call was made and that fifty minutes of interrogation was sufficient."

There is more.

I think this is going to be a big political problem for the administration that will get even bigger if al Qaeda attempts another such attack. If that happens this administration will find itself confined to one term as one of the most incompetent since Carter.


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