Bill Burck and Dana Perino have a must-read article over at NRO today regarding the decision to treat the Undy-Bomber as a common criminal rather than as an enemy combatant (a term this administration no longer uses.)
The problem, of course, with this decision is that we won't be able to gather any intelligence from him:
The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.
Burck and Perino point out that what is truly frightening is how quickly this administration moved to make that decision; Mutallab was charged within 24 hours - hardly enough time to negotiate between agencies to determine the best course of action. And why is so much of what Mutallab has said so far even being released to the public:
Indeed, the fact that so much is becoming public about what he has told investigators is itself disturbing. Intelligence derived from interrogations of al-Qaeda detainees was previously so highly classified that even government officials with the highest levels of security clearance were not permitted to see the information without being granted special access.
It's as if Team Obama wants to make it clear to the world that we aren't extracting any significant intelligence from this guy and they are free to continue with their merry plans of jihad without interference from us.
Treating terrorism as a criminal justice matter has been proven to be a dangerous path, yet one this administration is determined to travel:
The risks of trying the 9/11 plotters in civilian court, including possible revelation of classified information and security threats to downtown Manhattan, where the trial will be held, have been well documented and debated elsewhere. But they pale next to the risks of treating newly captured terrorists as mere criminals with all the rights of U.S. citizens. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been locked up for nearly seven years with no access to his free compatriots around the world. Whatever information he may not have divulged under interrogation is most likely stale. Not so Mutallab and all the other Mutallabs out there whom we have not yet encountered. These are the next wave of terrorists, and our security depends on having the right tools to obtain the fresh intelligence they may have.
Burck and Perino contend that it isn't too late for the administration to dismiss criminal charges and have him charged as an enemy combatant. This won't happen because Obama is determined to empty Gitmo, not add to it.
Dick Cheney lambasted Obama's decision to treat this as a civilian matter, coming out with a harsh statement against Obama:
"As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.
“He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency – social transformation—the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."There won't be any pretending for long. If we are to believe what Mutallab says, there are more like him in Yemen, and other locations, planning attacks on the U.S.
What are we to make of this mindset? Of the fact that our president seems so hellbent on lowering our defenses and endangering the country?
All the finger pointing that it was the Bush administration who freed some of the participants in this act does not change the fact that it exists. Obama should learn from the mistakes of his predecessors and make the right decision here, which is to treat this terrorist as an enemy combatant and gather all the intelligence he can from him.
That is not likely to happen.
Update: Ed Morrissey comments on the failure of the terrorists-are-common-criminals approach:
We tried this before, however, in the 1990s. It didn’t work out so well. Oddly enough, Osama bin Laden never appeared in federal court to answer his indictment, and the Clinton administration declined to have him delivered to US custody because we weren’t sure we could get a conviction in court. This approach resulted in an escalating series of attacks on US assets around the world during the 1990s, with hundreds of lives lost, and it culminated in 9/11.
Update 2: Michael Goldfarb reports Mutallab has lawyered-up:
Buried three paragraphs from the end of the report in today's Washington Post comes what ought to be the lede:
It sounds like he was singing when they first got him, and of course we now know that the government already had enough information on him to justify sending a Blackwater hit team after him, but now that the people with all that information are finally in a position to ask the questions -- LAWYER.
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.
Update 3: Add Gordon Cucullu, to the voices of the outraged:
Yet we respond to those who boast about American blood on their hands by expanding their venue and showering them with Constitutional rights previously afforded only to citizens, earned in blood by other citizens. With plans still under way to close Guantanamo and relocate the detainees to a prison here, the question has to be asked: Are we really that nuts?Update 4: And John Boehner has a few words:
“The Administration’s response following this attempted attack is consistent with its dangerous decision to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay and bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists to trial in the United States through civilian courts, rather than the military commissions already in place. We know the decision to close this prison has not stopped al Qaeda from plotting attacks on Americans, turning these terrorists over to other countries is not working, and we shouldn’t import them into the United States. It’s time for the President to halt terrorist transfers to other countries, including Yemen, and to reevaluate his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo.”