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Kristol: What Price Are We Paying for Not Treating Abdulmutallab as an Enemy Combatant?

4:40 PM, Dec 31, 2009 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, Dec. 29:

"Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials. Authorities are holding out hope that he will change his mind and cooperate with the inquiry, the officials said."

This has been changed in the online version to:

"Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials."

So apparently the authorities aren't holding out much hope for cooperation anymore, now that Abdulmutallab has been Mirandized and has a defense attorney.

The price we may be paying for the Obama's administration knee-jerk decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant could be stunning. As a friend -- an attorney with national security experience -- points out in an e-mail, "In Abdulmutallab, we have a terrorist in custody who's probably a lot smarter than the Richard Reids and Zacarias Moussaouis of the world, at least based on his educational background, and who therefore may be a rich source of intelligence --and we're letting him invoke Constitutional protections that he has only by virtue of coming to our country to murder hundreds of people!"

I'd add that this is a guy who's been in very recent touch with important people in terror networks in -- at a minimum -- Africa, Yemen, and London. It's hard to believe he wouldn't have operational intelligence he could give us that would help us -- perhaps help us a lot. But we're not treating him as an enemy combatant, and therefore not treating his capture as an intelligence and counter-terrorism opportunity, but instead as a matter for the criminal justice system!

President Obama needs to address this question directly when he next speaks: Why is he continuing to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect?