Monday, January 25, 2010

al-Qaeda's Got A Friend In The White House

Steve Hayes (Weekly Standard) and Marc Thiessen (NRO) detail the Obama administration's missteps in the handling of the Christmas bomber case.

Hayes :

The consequences of these mistakes could be huge. "The political decision to move terrorist interrogations to the White House has put Americans' safety in jeopardy," said Senator Kit Bond, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "If bin Laden were captured tomorrow, who would interrogate him? The White House doesn't have an answer."

It may be worse than that. The question may not be who would interrogate him but whether we would even have that opportunity. Senator Lindsey Graham asked Attorney General Eric Holder about this at a congressional hearing in November.

"Let me ask you this. Let's say we capture him tomorrow. When does custodial interrogation begin in his case? If we captured bin Laden tomorrow, would he be entitled to Miranda warning at the moment of capture?"

Holder responded: "Again, I'm not -- that all depends."

It depends. Eric Holder can imagine a scenario in which a U.S. government official reads Osama bin Laden his Miranda rights at the moment of capture.

Remember all of this the next time you hear an Obama administration official insist that we are at war with al Qaeda.

Thiessen laments our missed opportunity.

This is a massive intelligence failure on a number of levels. It cost us invaluable time-sensitive intelligence. From al-Qaeda’s vantage point, Abdulmutallab was supposed to be dead — vaporized with the plane that he was planning to explode. As soon as they learned that he was in custody, they began scrambling to cover his tracks — closing their e-mail accounts, cell-phone numbers, and bank accounts; putting terrorist leaders and operatives he knew about into hiding; and shutting down other trails of intelligence he might give us to follow. Every minute, every hour, every day that passed while Abdulmutallab exercised his “right to remain silent” cost us invaluable counterterrorism opportunities. Obama officials have said that they can still get information from him in the plea-bargaining process. Putting aside the question of why we should reduce his punishment in exchange for information, by the time we reach a plea deal it will be too late — the information will be useless.

Thiessen also says that when President Obama declassified the interrogation methods used by the CIA, we lost an extremely valuable tool in getting information from terrorists. Waterboarding - which had only been used in three cases anyway - had been removed from the CIA's list of approved interrogation techniques by President Bush. Only milder forms of coercion were allowed. But al-Qaeda operatives didn't know this.

In 2007, a terrorist named Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was captured. He was the highest-ranking al-Qaeda leader taken alive in many years — a former member of Saddam Hussein’s military, he had joined al-Qaeda in the 1990s, served for a time as a member of al-Qaeda’s ruling Shura council, and risen to become a senior bin Laden adviser and a top paramilitary commander in Afghanistan. When he was taken into custody, agency officials told him, “We’re the CIA.” He replied, “I’ve heard of you guys. I’ll tell you anything you need to know.” And he did — because he was not aware that the worst he would face was a tummy slap and a little lost sleep.

Another worthwhile item is a video featuring Thiessen debating terrorist apologists Christiane Amanpour and Phillippe Sand on CNN. It was 2 v. 1 but Thiessen did a good job getting his points across. He countered Sand's assertion that coercive interrogation never works by listing specific instances in which terror attacks were prevented. And he corrected some nonsense put forth by Amanpour that waterboarding is equivalent to practices carried out in the notorious Cambodian S-21 prison camp (where thousands were murdered). But the silliest comment was made by Sand, who at one point asked Thiessen how he would like to be waterboarded. Thiessen showed great restraint and calmly responded that he isn't a terrorist. One could imagine Sand asking a civilian during World War 2 how he would like to be shot by an American soldier just like those poor Nazis.



Thiessen video (in two parts on the Weekly Standard blogsite)

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