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U.S. Won’t Interrogate Top Al Qaeda Terrorist

9:00 AM, Apr 11, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Late last month I asked, who will interrogate top al Qaeda terrorist Umar Patek? Patek, who was captured in Pakistan, is wanted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, among other attacks and plots. He is easily one of the most important international terrorists captured in the past few years. Indeed, Marc Thiessen argued that Patek is the “biggest terrorist catch of the Obama era.”

Umar Patek

The problem is that the U.S. has no clear policy for detaining and interrogating terrorists such as Patek. President Obama ordered Guantanamo shuttered as one of his first acts in office. That hasn’t happened, but the administration isn’t going to send any new detainees to Cuba any way. And Obama closed down the CIA’s interrogation program, with little concern for what would replace it.

Ken Dilanian of the Los Angeles Times reports on the result of Obama’s new detention and interrogation policies, or lack thereof (emphasis added):

He's considered one of world's most dangerous terrorism suspects, and the U.S. offered a $1-million reward for his capture in 2005. Intelligence experts say he's a master bomb maker and extremist leader who possesses a wealth of information about Al Qaeda-linked groups in Southeast Asia.

Yet the U.S. has made no move to interrogate or seek custody of Indonesian militant Umar Patek since he was apprehended this year by officials in Pakistan with the help of a CIA tip, U.S. and Pakistani officials say.

Patek undoubtedly has vital information on al Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia. He was in Pakistan for a reason, too. Patek was likely meeting with senior al Qaeda leaders there. And, as Thiessen pointed out, there are reports that Patek visited Yemen, where he may have met with al Qaeda’s most prolific branch of late – al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In other words, Patek is just the sort of terrorist American officials should be questioning. He has worked with terrorists around the globe and can provide unique insights into the current state of the terror network. But instead of questioning Patek ourselves, the Obama administration is outsourcing the job.

The Los Angeles Times report continues (emphasis added):

Pakistani officials say they plan to deliver Patek to authorities in Indonesia, where he is wanted in the Bali case. Although seven Americans were among those killed in the bombings, no U.S. criminal charges are pending against him, a senior Justice Department official said.

A Pakistani intelligence source said no one from the CIA or any other U.S. agency had asked to question Patek.

U.S. officials say they expect the CIA will be given access to intelligence gleaned from Indonesia's interrogations of Patek, and may even be allowed to sit in and provide guidance, given the close ties between U.S. and Indonesian counter-terrorism officials.

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