Treating enemies as criminals

John Brennan, Obama’s assistant for counterterrorism and homeland security, was interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News yesterday concerning the recent terrorist attempt. One of the topics was Obama’s decision to charge Abdul Mutallab as a criminal rather than interrogating and punishing him as an enemy combatant. Over and over Brennan fails to offer any reason for treating this foreign enemy of the United States as an ordinary criminal defendant, just as Eric Holder failed to offer any reason for doing the same with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

WALLACE: Perhaps the most controversial step that President Obama took after the Christmas day terror attack was to charge Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant.

He was cooperating with authorities. He was giving information about his links to Al Qaida. But after he got a criminal lawyer, he reportedly stopped cooperating, stopped talking.

Why not treat him as an enemy combatant, put him in a secret prison, use the interrogation techniques that President Obama has specifically approved, and try to get more information out of him?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on—in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration—Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others—all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re—we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was—talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not …

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him—you certainly had the right—have—had—still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s—there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

- end of initial entry -

A. Zarkov writes:

We need not go through John Brennan’s non-statements one by one. His whole response to Chris Wallace can be summed up in two words: “eff you.” I’m sorry for the profanity, but what else sums up his response so concisely? Obama needs to be impeached and removed from office. His administration has but one reason for everything they do: “Because we can.”

Rick U. writes:

I don’t recall seeing one spokesman from this administration that has made me feel better about our security and that includes President Obama himself. It’s as though the inmates were running the asylum, or some other surreal scenario—either way, we need some grown-ups in charge and quick.

Mr. Brennan was equally unimpressive yesterday talking of maximum flexibility and comparing the criminal trial of Mutallab to criminal dispositions under the Bush administration as the standard of judgment. (Naturally, he never mentions, nor does Wallace, the clamoring on the left over Bush’s “unconstitutional” programs in his war as a predicate of criminal proceedings.) The stunning aspect to me was that Brennan basically said that in order to get information from Mutallab they had to plea bargain in trade for any information they get. Imagine, in about a week’s time the administration is bargaining with a terrorist for more information solely because they pinned themselves into a corner. This is madness—sadly people will probably have to die before they get it—well, let us hope that’s all it takes.

January 5

Nik S. writes;

To quote John Brennan:

“There was no smoking gun. There was no intelligence that said this guy’s a terrorist in any other plane. None whatsoever. It was the failure to integrate and piece together those bits and pieces of information.”

Apparently the intelligence agencies are not expected to piece together bits and pieces of information. Only if the intelligence has already been ‘pieced together’ should we consider any potential terrorist a threat.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 04, 2010 05:19 PM | Send

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