Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is pressing the Obama administration on questions about the handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, and makes some news in the process. McConnell notes that several top national security officials offered disturbing testimony yesterday on Capitol Hill about the decisionmaking process on Abdulmutallab -- or why there wasn't one. This leads McConnell to seek answers to "several troubling questions."
First, why were Miranda rights given to the obvious terrorist after only a brief session of questioning, which predictably ended his cooperation?
Second, at what level of authority was this decision taken to treat him as a criminal defendant instead of an unlawful enemy combatant? Who made this decision?
I asked this question last night of John Brennan, the President’s senior counterterrorism adviser, three times and he refused to answer. I think that the Senate is entitled to know precisely who authorized this.
A year ago the President decided to revise the Nation’s interrogation policies, and to restrict the CIA’s ability to question terrorists. The administration created a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group to question terrorists. Why wasn’t his group brought in once this terrorist was taken into custody?
Americans need to know these answers.
Several Obama administration officials have offered partial answers to these questions. FBI Director Robert Mueller and Blair have both said that the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab was made by agents on the ground -- something Mueller called "very appropriate" in separate testimony yesterday. But at other times, officials have suggested that the decision was made in consultation with higher-ranking officials. We know -- from the testimony yesterday -- that four of the nation's top counterterrorism officials were not asked for their views on handling Abdulmutallab as a criminal -- a group that includes Blair, Mueller, Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security.
So who, exactly, was consulted? And who -- a name would be helpful -- made that final decision?
McConnell reveals that he took that question to John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, who refused to answer three times? And that alone raises several additional troubling questions?
*Does Brennan know who made those crucial decisions on Abdulmutallab?
*If not, why not?
*And if so, what reason would he have for refusing to share that information with McConnell?
President Obama has pushed his agencies for more transparency and openness -- several times making the point that information should not be withheld to cover up mistakes or because it might prove embarrassing.
So why the silence?