During the past week, THE WEEKLY STANDARD surveyed United States Senators on the U.S. government's handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber. The questions we asked were simple: Does Senator XX believe that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been read his Miranda rights? And does Senator XX believe that Abdulmutallab should be tried in civilian courts?
Only one senator offered a clear and unequivocal "yes," in support of the Obama administration's handling of Abdulmutallab: Senator Roland Burris (D-IL).
We received answers from 38 of 40 Republicans. All 38 said that Abdulmutallab should not have been Mirandized and that he should not be tried in civilian court.
Of the Democrats who responded, many gave thoughtful, nuanced answers that were not directly responsive to the questions. Some, like Blanche Lincoln from Arkansas, expressed views that would seem to place her in the "no" category, while others, like Ben Cardin from Maryland, expressed views that suggested they support the administration's handling of Abdulmutallab. Still others, Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman, said without qualification that Abdulmutallab should not have been Mirandized and should not be tried in civilian courts. (Many Democratic senators have not yet responded to repeated phone calls and emails from THE WEEKLY STANDARD and one staffer, from the office of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, abruptly hung-up on us.)
This issue will be getting more attention next week, in part as a result of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday. So we will be updating the list with additional responses as we receive them. Full statements, from those senators who provided them, are listed below.
UPDATE: Senators Reid and Leahy have been added to the list of senators who support the administration's handling of Abdulmutallab.
Burris, Roland (D-IL)
Leahy, Patrick (D-VT)
Reid, Harry (D-NV)
Alexander, Lamar (R-TN)
Barrasso, John (R-WY)
Bayh, Evan (D-IN)
Bennett, Robert (R-UT)
Bond, Kit (R-MO)
Bunning, Jim (R-KS)
Burr, Richard (R-NC)
Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)
Coburn, Tom (R-OK)
Cochran, Thad (R-MS)
Collins, Susan (R-ME)
Corker, Bob (R-TN)
Cornyn, John (R-TX)
DeMint, Jim (R-SC)
Ensign, John (R-NV)
Enzi, Michael (R-WY)
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)
Grassley, Chuck (R-IA)
Gregg, Judd (R-NH)
Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)
Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R-TX)
Inhofe, James (R-OK)
Isakson, Johnny (R-GA)
Johanns, Mike (R-NE)
Kyl, Jon (R-AZ)
LeMieux, George (R-FL)
Lieberman, Joe (I-CT)
Lugar, Richard (R-IN)
McCain, John (R-AZ)
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK)
Risch, James (R-ID)
Roberts, Pat (R-KS)
Sessions, Jeff (R-AL)
Shelby, Richard (R-AL)
Snowe, Olympia (R-ME)
Thune, John (R-SD)
Vitter, David (R-LA)
Voinovich, George (R-OH)
Wicker, Roger (R-MS)
Neither Yes or No:
Cantwell, Maria (D-WA)
Cardin, Ben (D-MD)
Carper, Thomas (D-DE)
Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA)
Landrieu, Mary (D-LA)
Lincoln, Blanche (D-AR)
McCaskill, Claire (D-MO)
Nelson, Bill (D-FL)
Tester, Jon (D-MT)
Webb, Jim (D-VA)
Akaka, Daniel (D-HI)
Baucus, Max (D-MT)
Begich, Mark (D-AK)
Bennet, Michael (D-CO)
Bingaman, Jeff (D-NM)
Boxer, Barbara (D-CA)
Brown, Sherrod (D-OH)
Brownback, Sam (R-KS)
Byrd, Robert (D-WV)
Casey, Robert (D-PA)
Conrad, Kent (D-ND)
Crapo, Mike (R-ID)
Dodd, Chris (D-CT)
Dorgan, Byron (D-ND)
Durbin, Richard (D-IL)
Feingold, Russell (D-WI)
Franken, Al (D-MN)
Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY)
Hagan, Kay (D-NC)
Harkin, Tom (D-IA)
Inouye, Daniel (D-HI)
Johnson, Tim (D-SD)
Kaufman, Ted (D-DE)
Kerry, John (D-MA)
Kirk, Paul (D-MA)
Kohl, Herb (D-WI)
Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN)
Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ)
Levin, Carl (D-MI)
Menendez, Robert (D-NJ)
Merkley, Jeff (D-OR)
Mikulski, Barbara (D-MD)
Murray, Patty (D-WA)
Nelson, Ben (D-NE)
Pryor, Mark (D-AR)
Reed, Jack (D-RI)
Rockefeller, John (D-WV)
Sanders, Bernie (I-VT)
Schumer, Charles (D-NY)
Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)
Specter, Arlen (D-PA)
Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI)
Udall, Mark (D-CO)
Udall, Tom (D-NM)
Warner, Mark (D-VA)
Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI)
Wyden, Ron (D-OR)
From Senator Roland Burris's (D-IL) spokesperson James O'Connor:
Senator Burris believes it was appropriate to read Mr. Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and to arrest and prosecute him under federal criminal law.
From Senator Maria Cantwell's (D-WA) spokesperson John Diamond:
"Regarding the Christmas bomber, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that an arresting officer, of his own accord, should have or could have overturned Supreme Court precedent and decades of established policy by withholding Miranda rights at the point of arrest before all the facts were known. As to place of trial, Senator Cantwell has said that she has confidence in the ability of our federal court system to handle terrorism trials. All that said, she does have serious concerns about threats to our security in general and terrorist threats to aviation in particular, and she, along with her colleagues, is looking at whether new policies and procedures need to be considered."
Statement from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD):
“We must reject the false choice between using either the civilian Article III courts, or the redesigned Military Commissions, to prosecute terrorists. The civilian federal courts have been instrumental in enabling this nation to prosecute terrorists and to gain valuable intelligence information. Properly designed Military Commissions also have an important role to play to enable us to prosecute terrorists who violate the laws of war, and may be appropriate in some cases. But we must reject the ‘either or.’
“As Chairman of the Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, I chaired a hearing in July 2009, on Guantanamo Bay, that reaffirmed for me the central role that our civilian federal courts can play in prosecuting terrorists because they have the capacity to handle terrorism cases, and they have done so successfully for many years before the 9/11 attacks.
“I most respectfully disagree with those who say that the United States can only gain valuable intelligence information by sending terrorists to the Military Commissions, and to those who say that the FBI is not capable of effectively interrogating terrorism suspects to gain valuable intelligence information.
“We also need to be careful when we rush to second guess the prosecutorial decisions that are made by the President and the Executive Branch. Since 9/11, every terrorism suspect apprehended in the United States, during either the Bush or the Obama Administrations, has been charged under federal criminal law.”
From Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE):
This is a very serious decision with very little precedent in law. We need to carefully weight both sides of the argument, as well as the evolution of attacks against our country to determine what process will allow for the greatest justice to be served."
From Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):
“The FBI is very skilled at conducting interrogations of terror suspects, and the decision to interrogate Abdulmutallab as part of the initial stage of a criminal prosecution was appropriate given the procedures in place at the time. The Senate Intelligence Committee is continuing to review this case, so I will not offer an opinion on the prosecution of Abdulmutallab while we are still gathering and analyzing the facts. But it is important to note that the Obama Administration has the flexibility to transfer Abdulmutallab to military custody if it chooses – the same flexibility exercised by the Bush Administration in the Padilla case.”
Statement from Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA):
"I don't believe that we should limit our Attorney General's options in the fight against terrorism. If attackers appear to be supported by a significant military apparatus, trying them in military courts may make sense. If they appear to be acting alone, it may be more appropriate to try them in civilian court. We tried Richard Reid and over 200 other terrorists in our criminal justice system since 9/11 and the conviction rate is over 90 percent."
From Senator Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) spokesperson Laura Myron:
"Senator McCaskill believes that the intelligence community should have been consulted prior to the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and that in the future there should be a better process in place for dealing with these situations. At this point, the situation has been handled using the same policies that have been used for all other suspected terrorists since 9/11, but Senator McCaskill is studying legislative options to establish a better process for the future."
From Senator Bill Nelson's (D-FL) spokesperson Dan McLaughlin:
"he’s reviewing the decision and related issues as a member of the intelligence committee. and he has confidence in the federal judicial system to try these kinds of cases. his biggest concern is new york being the venue - the security risk there."
Statement from Senator Jon Tester (D-MT):
“I believe he should be tried in whatever forum is going to find him guilty and lock him up for life.”
From Senator Jim Webb's (D-VA) spokesperson Jessica Smith:
"Senator Webb has repeatedly said that military tribunals are the most appropriate vehicle for trying individuals detained for crimes of war."
Statement from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN):
"The Christmas Day bomber should have been treated like the foreign terrorist he is instead of like an American citizen who broke into a sandwich shop. Intelligence officials should have been given the opportunity to interrogate him about what other terrorists might be climbing onto planes heading toward the United States. This sort of information has turned out to be by far the most useful way we have to prevent terrorist attacks."
Statement from Senator John Barrasso (R-WY):
"Terrorists must never be allowed to lawyer up, shut up, and study up on how to manipulate our justice system. We need to apply the rules of war to those trying to harm us."
Statement from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME):
"The determination to place Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab into the U.S. civilian court system was made without the input or knowledge of the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, or the Secretary of Homeland Security. This mistake likely foreclosed the collection of additional intelligence information and may have prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to the United States. We know that interrogations of terrorists can provide critical intelligence, but our civil justice system, as opposed to military detention, encourages terrorists to 'lawyer-up' and stop answering questions.
"That was the case here. Abdulmutallab had provided some information to law enforcement officials immediately after his capture, and we surely would have obtained more if we had treated this foreign terrorist as an enemy belligerent and placed him in the military tribunal system instead."
Statement from Senator John Cornyn (R-TX):
“In the wake of 9/11, our nation was forced to learn painful lessons in order to better defend against the ever-present threat of terrorism. Mirandizing the Christmas Day terrorist mere hours after he was taken into custody was profoundly irresponsible; it flies in the face of the 9/11 Commission’s body of work, and it shows a complete failure to comprehend the role that valuable intelligence can play in saving innocent American lives. The Attorney General, by choosing to treat the Christmas Day terrorist as a common criminal on the street, has demonstrated a clear ‘September 10th' mentality, and it is cause for concern.”
Statement from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
"It's a strategic and tactical mistake in the War on Terror to try Abdulmutallab in civilian court. He's not a Nigerian student, he's an enemy combatant. He tried to kill innocent Americans -- civilians -- which is and should be treated as an act of war. He should have been interrogated by the military and tried by military commission. He has no place in civilian court."
Statement from Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT):
"We are a nation at war against a dangerous enemy. But the President has repeatedly made decisions that fail to recognize that terrorism is a national security issue that should not be forced into federal civilian courts. We should not treat terrorists as common criminals, as the Administration has done with the Khalid Sheik Mohamed, the mastermind of the September 11thattacks, and Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber. They do not deserve the same rights as every American. Abdulmutallab should not have been read his Miranda rights, depriving our intelligence community potentially critical information to protect our nation, nor should he be tried in a civilian court."
Statement from Senator James Inhofe (R-OK):
"Abdulmutallab is a war criminal and should be treated as such. He should be turned over to our intelligence agencies, held at Guantanamo, and tried in our Military Courts. This is a matter of national security, and it is counterproductive and dangerous to extend rights reserved for U.S. citizens to terrorist combatants. In Abdulmutallab's case, as soon as he was read his Miranda Rights, he stopped providing information that could be critical in the War on Terrorism. Regardless of what President Obama calls it, the fact remains that al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups remain at warwith us. The Obama administration's handling of this case sets a dangerous precedent which directly threatens our national security."
Statement from Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE):
"Giving terrorists the same rights as common domestic criminals is tremendously misguided and dangerous, and does not project the image of a country serious about protecting its people and its ideals. It will hinder our ability to prevent future attacks, and potentially allow unrepentant terrorists back on the battlefield.”
Statement from Senate Harry Reid (D-NV)
"Senator Reid believes that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be treated according to the exact same protocols used by the Bush Administration to prosecute other terrorism suspects detained on US soil, such as the so-called "shoe-bomber", Richard Reid. This system has been used successfully to bring over 150 terrorists to justice since 9-11. He is deeply disappointed at those who have used this incident to politicize our national security without regard for the true safety of the American people."
Statement from Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS):
“It is a shame Americans have been placed in further danger due to this Administration’s misguided use of criminal laws to prosecute terrorists when rules of war, and the use of military commissions are necessary to protect the nation,” Senator Roberts said. “Kansans are outraged that safeguards and procedures to prevent and respond to such a threat failed and that the Administration still cannot account for the prisoner’s first hour of custody. Americans do not want their tax dollars to be spent hiring lawyers for terrorists.”
Statement from Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL):
"Abdulmutallab committed an act of terrorism, not a crime. He should be declared an enemy combatant and tried in a military tribunal, not given the rights and privileges afforded to U.S. citizens."
Video of Senator David Vitter (R-LA) addressing this issue.
Statement from Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS):
“Terrorists must be treated as enemy combatants and not a law enforcement problem. The administration’s failure to place Abdulmutallab directly into the custody of military authorities was a dangerous mistake. We may never know what critical intelligence was lost when he was read his Miranda rights. If he faces trial in a civilian court rather than a military tribunal, he will be given a public forum to air his hatred and he will receive the same rights that protect law-abiding Americans. This is a dangerous ideology that threatens the security of our nation.”