Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not an inspiring bunch to be in control of the nation's security

The administration's top four intelligence and security officials went before the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday and had some startling news. They admitted that not one of them had been consulted before the Christmas undie bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was Mirandized and got lawyered up. It wasn't even clear who had made the decision to place Abdulmutallab in the justice system rather than continuing intelligence briefings. The director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, first told the committee that Abdulmutallab should have been question by the special groups that Obama had ordered back in January to be created to interrogate high value terrorists. Attorney General set up these interrogation units in August but, apparently, they hadn't considered that they might need these units to interrogate suspects captured in the United States.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told a Senate committee that when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was taken into custody, the so-called High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) should have been involved in questioning him.

"We should have automatically deployed the HIG. We will now," Blair told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He said that when the group was set up it was expected they would handle suspects detained overseas.

"We did not think about ... (a) case in which a terrorist was apprehended, as this one was, in the United States and we should have thought of that," Blair said.
Say what? Hadn't they noticed all the terrorist suspects who have been arrested in the United States since 9/11? It didn't occur to them that such suspects might know very important intelligence that we would like to know?

Later after Blair's testimony, the administration contradicted his remarks and said that they still weren't sure if they should use HIG to interrogate suspects captured domestically.
Another administration official said the unit was intended to interrogate high-value detainees overseas, and the administration hasn't yet decided whether it could also be deployed domestically. But Mr. Blair specifically said using the teams solely overseas is a mistake, and that they would be used domestically in the future.
And Blair admits that, even though the President issued the executive order to create these units in January, they're still not up and running. So now we have a conflict between the director of intelligence and the administration on such a basic question. And it seems that they scrapped the Bush administration's procedures and stil lhaven't put their own in place. Wonderful.

At least Blair recognizes that someone like Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated for the intelligence he might have had about Yemeni terrorist training camps. But it seems that the Justice Department is determined to treat such terrorists as ordinary criminals who deserve the full protections of the Bill of Rights. And now Blair is trying to tell us that it was sufficient for some FBI agents to have interrogated Abdulmutallab for several hours before he was given a lawyer and medical treatment. Don't they understand that successful interrogations might take place over a longer period of time as the interrogator goes back over and over what the terrorist previously stated in order to try to leverage out more information. A single questioning one time is not enough.

And it is disturbing that no one in the leadership of the nation's intelligence was even questioned about how to deal with a man who admitted that he'd been sent by Al Qaeda to blow up an airplane full of people on Christmas day. They can do all the reexaminations of their mistakes leading up to the bombing attempt, but it seems that they're ignoring the mistakes that they made after the guy fell into our custody. It seems that the passengers and stewardesses on that airplane showed more determination and initiative than those responsible for our nation's security.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire writes,
Per FBI Director Mueller's testimony the agents on the spot made the decision without seeking guidance from above. So, did they not get the memo, or was there no memo advising the FBI (and presumably, local law enforcement) about the desirability of a higher review?
And are such important decisions really being made by some underlings in Detroit without any input from Attorney General Holder? Apparently, the Department of Justice is not answering that question.