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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

US Spy Chief Never Consulted On Whether Underwear Bomber Should be Treated as Terror Suspect

One of the most oft-asked questions since the "underwear bomber" was arrested on Christmas day is why was he treated as a domestic criminal instead of being turned over to to our intelligence agencies to be interrogated. As Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the Underwear Bomber, was fresh from the terrorist operations in Yemen, we could have gotten valuable information regarding al Qaeda's new set-up in Yemen.

The word leaked out is immediately after his arrest Abdulmutallab sang like a canary, then he was read his Miranda rights,so he "lawyered-up" and stopped talking. If he had been turned over to the special interrogator unit rather than the criminal authorities he would not have been offered Miranda rights.

At least we finally have the answer to why the Underwear Bomber was processed as a criminal case, no one asked our spy agencies. Today the Senate held a hearing trying to get to the bottom of the Christmas day attempted terror attack by Captain Underwear. Their objective was to find out what mistakes were made and how they could be fixed. Spy Cheif Dennis Blair does not agree with the way things were handled. He would have recommended that the Underwear Bomber should have been treated as a terrorism suspect and questioned by special interrogators rather than by law enforcement authorities, if he was asked---but then again he wasn't asked.
Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, told Congress that senior national security officials were not consulted before the FBI decided to press civilian charges against the suspect, alleged al Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Blair said Abdulmutallab should have interrogated by the High Value Interrogation Group, which President Obama set up last year by after deciding to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"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. "We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have."

HUH? They didn't ASK? Did the President, or the Director of homeland security mention that asking intelligence would be a good Idea?
The revelation triggered harsh criticism from Republicans and questions from some Democrats as Congress returned from its winter break to question nearly a dozen administration officials in five hearings about intelligence, terrorist watch list and aviation screening breakdowns that the White House said earlier this month led to a failure to prevent the attacks.
"That is very troubling," said Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), noting that Abdulmutallab invoked his right to legal counsel and stopped answering questions after he was read his Miranda rights. "We, by doing so, have lost an opportunity to secure additional intelligence from him, not only about his own training, but intelligence that possibly would allow us to uncover other plots that are emanating from Yemen."

Maybe the Attorney General thought the bomber was a member of the Black Panthers and thought he should be let go, just like Holder allowed charges to be dropped on election day.
The disclosure appeared likely to fan partisan debate over the country's counter-terrorism policies. Facing criticism by Republicans, the Obama administration's top intelligence and counterterrorism officials have said they are fixing gaps that were exposed when Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate explosives aboard a Dec. 25 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The Obama White House has defended Blair and Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, in particular deflecting critics' unhappiness that Leiter left for a previously scheduled trip with his son in the days after the attack. The administration noted that Leiter did so with White House approval and that he remained in constant contact.

Partisan? You mean people who don't want to be blown up vs. people who like to have body parts strewn across a few hundred feet radius?
More broadly, the incident has renewed debate over the effectiveness of intelligence reforms implemented in the past five years, and set off finger-pointing between defenders of the CIA on the one hand and supporters of the more recently created DNI and NCTC.
"There is a heavy burden on the president to be very clear about who is in charge of the intelligence community, where final authority lies in regard to budget and personnel matters," said former congressman and 9/11 commission
vice chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). He was set to appear later Wednesday with 9/11 panel chairman Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey, at the Senate commerce panel.

"The president's leadership is crucial here, it must be continuous, and if you don't have it, you risk mission confusion and decreasing the prospects of real reform," Hamilton said.

...Blair appeared to depart slightly in emphasis from past administration pronouncements on whether -- even if the U.S. government had put together all the information it had on suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- he would have been barred from flying at the time.

The review by White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan concluded that the government had information to potentially disrupt the plot, including placing the suspect on the U.S. no-fly list.

However, Leiter said putting Abdulmutallab on that list would still have been a judgment call -- "based on the existing strength of the analytic judgment at the time" -- a conclusion likely to feed expansion of watch lists.

Each day, Blair added in his statement, Leiter's agency reviews thousands of names and places more than 350 people on the government's main terrorist watch list, adding that "virtually all [are] based on far more damning information than that associated with Mr. Abdulmutallab prior to Christmas Day."

But there is no wavering on Blairs insistence on the fact that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by intelligence. The President should sit down with Attorney General Holder and make the procedure very clear.

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