This past week gave us an interesting insight in how the Obama Administration is politicizing terror; ironically, something they accused the Bush Administration of regularly during the campaign.
This week, the intelligence services told the White House and Congress that Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab is now speaking to interrogators…a full 5 weeks after his initial arrest. The information was given to Congress in closed door meetings. However, the White House, primarily their political and communication wings (led by Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod), immediately went on the attack in public forums, exclaiming how well their strategy worked in obtaining intelligence in this matter.
Except…the facts belie the truth.
Robert Gibbs, less than 48 hours after the bombing attempt, told numerous news networks that the FBI, after a strenuous 50 minute interview with the bomber, had obtained all the information necessary.
On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs whether President Obama was informed of the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights before or after it was done. Gibbs avoided the question, saying, “That decision was made by the Justice Department and the FBI, with experienced FBI interrogators.” Gibbs stressed that “Abdulmutallab was interrogated and valuable intelligence was gotten as a result of that interrogation.”
Wallace pressed. “But we now find out he was interrogated for 50 minutes,” he said to Gibbs. “When they came back, he was read his Miranda rights and he clammed up.”
“No,” Gibbs answered. “Again, he was interrogated. Valuable intelligence was gotten based on those interrogations. And I think the Department of Justice and the — made the right decision, as did those FBI agents.”
“Let me just press one last question,” Wallace said. “You really don’t think that if you’d interrogated him longer that you might have gotten more information, since we now know that Al Qaeda in Yemen — ”
“Well, FBI interrogators believe they got valuable intelligence and were able to get all that they could out of him,” Gibbs said.
“All they could?” Wallace asked.
“Yeah,” Gibbs said.
David Axelrod has been repeating those talking points for weeks, as the Obama Administration has been pounded from both the left and right for failure to obtain valuable intelligence from this critical source.
Which is all fine and dandy…except Gibbs and Axelrod are directing contradicting themselves now. Both claim the Obama policy is a success primarily because Abdulmuttallab is talking now. However, both implied that the FBI obtained all the intelligence necessary in their initial 50 minute interview. The two stories, obviously, do not jibe.
To their credit (or at least, someone’s credit), apparently at least the White House had the discussion about Abdulmuttallab’s status…before making the wrong choice:
“The attorney general said, ‘I’m going to charge him tomorrow,’ ” and “there were questions raised about whether or not he should in fact go to law of war detention status,” according to the transcript of a White House background briefing for reporters last Tuesday by two senior administration officials.
At that NSC meeting were Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was not disclosed who raised the question.
In the discussion, it was pointed out that the FBI was working the case, that it had interrogators ready and that two counterterrorism agents were already in Nigeria, beginning a background investigation of Abdulmutallab and his large family.
Another point: has anyone in the intelligence agencies thought that maybe the new information given up by the terrorist was planned by Al Qaeda all along? Al Qaeda is many things…but they are not stupid. They pay close attention to American politics, and likely could have predicted that the Obama Administration would Mirandize Abdulmuttallab. Could it be that they planned to leak old information when the time was right? I hope someone has actually thought of this scneario.
Two clear facts (not arguments) come out of this. First, that clearly Abdulmuttallab had information at the time of the attack that he did not have the chance to provide federal investigators because he was read his Miranda rights. That now clearly has to be admitted by the administration. Second is that we could have obtained that information quite easily. This terrorist was a low level member who was willing to talk. The simple act of not Mirandizing the man could have demonstrably added to our intelligence gathering weeks ago, without any ‘harsh interrogations’ whatsoever.
One has to truly question why the administration is so blind on this issue.