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Washington Post: Abdulmutallab Shouldn't Have Been Charged as a Criminal

It was a foolish decision to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber.

10:22 AM, Jan 23, 2010 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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The Washington Post adds itself to the growing chorus of critics of the Obama administration's handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab after his botched bombing attempt on Christmas Day.  And, in what should be a worrisome sign to the White House, the Post editorial reverses their previous endorsement of the decision to charge Abdulmutallab as a criminal: "Whether to charge terrorism suspects is a judgment call.  We originally supported the administration's judgment in the Abdulmutallab case, assuming that it had been made after due consideration.  But the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model."

The Post also breaks some news in the editorial.  In hearings on Wednesday, four senior counterterrorism officials -- including Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence -- acknowledged that they hadn't been consulted on the decision to try Abdulmutallab as a criminal.  It was a stunning disclosure -- something that would have immediately been a major scandal but for the fact that it took place less than 24 hours after one of the most stunning political upsets in recent American history.

The Obama administration, no doubt sensitive to the criticism of its incompetence, appears to have pushed back.  The Post editorial includes this nugget:  "Some intelligence officials, including personnel from the Office of the Director National Intelligence, were included in briefings by the Justice Department before Mr. Abdulmutallab was charged."  The Post editorial goes on to report that the meetings presented an opportunity to debate the main issue -- detention vs. prosecution -- and laments that no one apparently took the opportunity to question the reflexive decision to prosecute.

There is another problem with those sessions.  They almost certainly took place after the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab -- which was the point at which he stopped talking. Indeed, a Post news piece reported that Abdulmutallab was Mirandized the same night he was captured -- Christmas Day -- a fact confirmed to TWS by Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And two other sources told TWS that none of the intelligence the U.S. intelligence community had on Abdulmutallab -- from the intercepts to information provided by his father -- was used in his brief, two-hour interview with FBI "agents on the ground."

So while it's troubling that no one questioned the decision to prosecute at these Justice Department sessions, the larger concern is that those briefings likely took place after Abdulmutallab had stopped talking.

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