MSNBC White House correspondents Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs some hard-hitting questions today.
Hinting that intelligence is perishable, Guthrie asks Gibbs, "Did you lose an opportunity to interrogate by Mirandizing too soon? This was not a product of reflection that went all the way to the top."
GIBBS: Absolutely not.
GUTHRIE: How can you say that? How can you say that you have lost no valuable intelligence when a period elapses between the day or so after the bombing and five weeks before he renews his cooperation?
GIBBS: No, no, Savannah, he didn't just stop talking because he got mirandized. He stopped talking because he was trained to stop talking.
Got that? Gibbs has previously claimed that Abdulmutallab gave up "actionable intelligence" during his 50-minute interrogation, but Abdulmutallab apparently stopped talking because he was trained to do so. Is that in the al Qaeda playbook? Sing like a canary for 50 minutes and then stop talking?
The fact is, we don't know if Abdulmutallab would have talked in the five weeks following his attempted attack because CIA interrogators didn't even get a chance. As Guthrie informs viewers, if you Mirandize someone "investigators cannot go back to him and get him to talk. They cannot cajole him or persuade him. If he's an enemy combatant, they do have the ability to go back and get him to talk."
In the second clip, Gibbs is pressed on the problems of a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:
GUTHRIE: Many times you have raised this issue of Moussaoui. The Moussaoui case who was tried in the civilian system. As you are well aware, the government essentially lost that case. The only issue at trial was whether he should get the death penalty and the jury spared him. How can you guarantee that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will -- there won't be something similar happening in that case? You can't guarantee the outcome there.
GIBBS: Let's understand, let's not oversimplify this, Savannah. Let's understand for the American people that Moussaoui sits in a prison and will sit in a prison for the rest of his life. As will Richard Reid for the rest of his life. There's an overwhelming case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. There's an overwhelming case against his co-conspirators. Civilian courts, as has been recognized by both the Bush administration and the Obama administration, have a fantastic record of getting convictions and bringing about justice.
"In civilian court a defense lawyer could easily bring a motion at the beginning of the case and say there has been outrageous government conduct here, this guy was waterboarded 183 times," Guthrie says," and you can't stop a federal judge from just throwing that case out."
Gibbs replies: "The American people are not scared of bringing justice through the American justice system."
Does Gibbs really want to imply that military tribunals are not a part of the American justice system? The Obama administration is still trying some enemy combatants in military tribunals, which abide by the rule of law.