Friday, January 1, 2010

Bringing A Knife To A Gunfight

Some recent comments about the near bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Bill Kristol (Weekly Standard blog):

The price we may be paying for the Obama’s administration knee-jerk decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant could be stunning. As a friend -- an attorney with national security experience -- points out in an e-mail, “In Abdulmutallab, we have a terrorist in custody who's probably a lot smarter than the Richard Reids and Zacarias Moussaouis of the world, at least based on his educational background, and who therefore may be a rich source of intelligence --and we're letting him invoke Constitutional protections that he has only by virtue of coming to our country to murder hundreds of people!”

I’d add that this is a guy who’s been in very recent touch with important people in terror networks in -- at a minimum -- Africa, Yemen, and London. It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have operational intelligence he could give us that would help us -- perhaps help us a lot. But we’re not treating him as an enemy combatant, and therefore not treating his capture as an intelligence and counter-terrorism opportunity, but instead as a matter for the criminal justice system!

Charles Krauthammer (NRO):

The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to downplay and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. Napolitano renames terrorism “man-caused disasters.” Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York — a trifecta of political correctness and image management.

...Obama referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as “an isolated extremist.” This is the same president who, after the Ford Hood shooting, warned us “against jumping to conclusions” — code for daring to associate Nidal Hasan’s mass murder with his Islamist ideology. Yet, with Abdulmutallab, Obama jumped immediately to the conclusion, against all existing evidence, that the bomber acted alone.

More jarring still were Obama’s references to the terrorist as a “suspect” who “allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device.” You can hear the echo of FDR: “Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — Japanese naval and air force suspects allegedly bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Obama reassured the nation that this “suspect” had been charged. Reassurance? The president should be saying: We have captured an enemy combatant — an illegal combatant under the laws of war: no uniform, direct attack on civilians — and now to prevent future attacks, he is being interrogated regarding information he may have about al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Instead, Abdulmutallab is dispatched to some Detroit-area jail and immediately lawyered up. At which point — surprise! — he stops talking.
This absurdity renders hollow Obama’s declaration that “we will not rest until we find all who were involved.” Once we’ve given Abdulmutallab the right to remain silent, we have gratuitously forfeited our right to find out from him precisely who else was involved, namely those who trained, instructed, armed, and sent him.

This is all quite mad even in Obama’s terms. He sends 30,000 troops to fight terror overseas, yet if any terrorists come to attack us here, they are magically transformed from enemy into defendant.

The logic is perverse. If we find Abdulmutallab in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, where he is merely preparing for a terror attack, we snuff him out with a Predator — no judge, no jury, no qualms. But if we catch him in the United States in the very act of mass murder, he instantly acquires protection not just from execution by drone but even from interrogation.

Andrew McCarthy (NRO) says lay off Janet Napolitano :

Napolitano is an apt representation of Obama-style detachment from national security: She doesn't know where the 9/11 hijackers came from; she doesn't know illegal immigration is a criminal offense; she won't utter the word "terror" (it's a "man-caused disaster," just like, say, a forest fire); she thinks the real terrorists are "right-wing extremists" aided and abetted by our soldiers returning home from their missions; when a jihadist at Fort Hood massacres more people than were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she won't call it terrorism and worries mostly about racist blow-back against innocent Muslims; she doesn't see any indications of a larger terrorist conspiracy even after a captured — er, arrested — terrorist tells agents he was groomed for the airplane operation by al Qaeda in Yemen; she thinks the "system worked" on Christmas when every element of it failed; and even her walk-back on the "system worked" comment — i.e., that it worked after the fact because all the planes then in the air were notified to take extra precautions "within 90 minutes" of the attack — is pathetic. You may recall that on 9/11, the first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and the second at 9:16 a.m.; the Pentagon was struck at 9:37 a.m., and, thanks to the heroic passengers of Flight 93, the last plane went down a little after 10 a.m. — about 20 minutes from its target in Washington. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.

When DHS came into being, a good friend of mine put it perfectly: "We already have a Department of Homeland Security and its address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." It is there, not at DHS, that the problem resides. The President has in place exactly the team he wants. To clamor for Napolitano's firing when she is just carrying out the boss's program is to shift the blame from where it belongs.

Michael Goldfarb (Weekly Standard blog) :

On Monday I posted a question from a friend and suggested Scott Rasmussen might want to put that question to the American public. Here's the question as it was emailed to me:

Do you think most Americans prefer that this guy is A) Watching cable tv is a warm cell funded by taxpayers and enjoying his right to remain silent (i.e, BHO reality); or B) At an undisclosed location being waterboarded to learn about his little friends back in Yemen and their plans to kill us. I'd say 65% + of Americans would prefer B.... But just a guess.

Ask and ye shall receive. Rasmussen releases a poll today showing that 58 percent of Americans "say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day." My guess was off by a few points, but then again Rasmussen probably framed the question a little bit differently than we did above.

Perhaps most startling, just 30 percent of Americans oppose the use of such enhanced interrogation techniques, but among those 30 percent is the President of the United States, who allowed law enforcement to arrest the Nigerian and read him his rights, including the right to remain silent, though somehow we are supposed to be comforted by the fact that even after he was told of his right to remain silent, law enforcement can still try and interrogate him. Not surprisingly, that turns out to be an ineffective approach. As the Washington Post reported yesterday, "Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials."

Other interesting numbers from the Rasmussen poll:

Should the attempt to blow up the airliner be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act or by civilian authorities as a criminal act?

71% By the military as a terrorist act
22% By civilian authorities as a criminal act
7% Not sure

Only 22 percent believe that this should be handled by law enforcement! This isn't even an argument anymore, the Cheney view is now the dominant view among the American public.

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