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Tilting at Windmills

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February 3, 2010

ABDULMUTALLAB 'HAS BEEN COOPERATING'.... Over the weekend, in the official Republican weekly address, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who really ought to know better, blasted the Obama administration's handling of the Abdulmutallab case. She was particularly incensed by "the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab's interrogation."

Now, I can appreciate political opportunism as much as the next blogger. I can even understand trying to take advantage of a perceived weakness.

But these criticisms are just absurd. The Obama administration has not only dealt with the Abdulmutallab case by the book, but it's also had considerable success that even Republicans should be satisfied with.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, started talking to investigators after two of his family members arrived in the United States and helped earn his cooperation, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.

Mr. Abdulmutallab, 23, began speaking to F.B.I. agents last week in Detroit and has not stopped, two government officials said. The officials declined to disclose what information was obtained from him, but said it was aiding in the investigation of the attempted terrorist attack.

"With the family, the F.B.I. approached the suspect," the senior administration official said, speaking to reporters at the White House on the condition of anonymity because of the pending legal case. "He has been cooperating for days."

For weeks, conservative lawmakers, activists, and media personalities have insisted that the administration had made a terrible mistake -- making Abdulmutallab aware of his rights, failing to interrogate the suspect, and neglecting to gain potentially valuable intelligence.

The talking points may make for spirited Fox News broadcasts, but they're also at odds with reality.

"The intelligence gained has been disseminated throughout the intelligence community," the official said, adding, "The best way to get him to talk was working with his family."

Another federal official said Mr. Abdulmutallab had provided information about people he met in Yemen, where he is believed to have receiving training and explosives from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a branch of the terrorist network.

"He's retracing his activities over there," said the official, who would discuss the case only on the condition of anonymity. "You run to ground what he tells you, validate it and follow up. You build a relationship. It's a pretty standard process."

Imagine that. The right's bed-wetting notwithstanding, the Obama administration handing the matter exactly as it should, and the current approach has "been very successful."

Conservatives have been on the offensive, but they've been attacking from a position of weakness and ignorance. This isn't the way to improve already-suspect credibility on national security matters.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Comments

Anyone who says that non-citizens arrested in this country aren't entitled to most of the same constitutional protections as U.S. citizens is completely ignorant or blatantly lying--neither of which is good for a U.S. senator.
They need to re-read their pocket consitutions--I think they want to particularly focus on the 14th amendment. Salon just recently dealt with this--

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on February 3, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute! That can't be right. I read on the WSJ Op-Ed page from the very serious Victoria Toensing that Abdulmutallab had "lawyered up" and wasn't talking.

Abdulmutallab is in effect in possession of a ticking bomb, but we cannot interrogate him. His right to remain silent, as required by the Miranda rule, thwarts Mr. Obama's hollow attempt on Tuesday to "assure" us he is "doing everything in [his] power" to keep us safe.

Questions need to be answered. Where was Abdulmutallab trained? Who trained him? Where is the training facility located? Where is the stash of PETN, the explosive used in the bomb? What are the techniques he was told to use for getting through airport security? Was there a well-dressed man who helped him board the plane without a passport as claimed by another passenger? And, most important, are future attacks planned?

Yes, we could try him first and then interrogate him. But by then the information is stale, especially if he utilizes the same legal challenges Moussaoui did to drag out the process for years.

Now, it turns out that he is, in fact, coming forth with usable intelligence? And he wasn't even tortured? What fun is that?

Ah, hell, let's torture him anyway, just because.

Where's my blowtorch and my pit bull?

Posted by: UncommonSense on February 3, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

But ... but ... but ... surely he would have given up MORE information if we had tortured him instead ... that's what always happens on TV ...

Posted by: G.Kerby on February 3, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I was thinking about the alleged moderates, Snow and Collins, last night. Why are they towing the crazy right wing line of the Senate R's if they are moderates and in very safe seats? What's the motivation? are they really batshite crazy like the rest of them? do they have something to gain? They might differ on HC but differing on political appointments, terrorism and the mundane workings of the Senate seems insane from people who are viewed as moderate. Are they hoping for chairmanships when, if ever, the Senate goes R again? Do they recall how Specter was tortured and expect to avoid that spectacle by towing the line? Do they really believe that their moniker of moderate won't be enough to bury them with leadership if they retake?

Posted by: JM on February 3, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

republican mantra
shoot-aim-ready?
the party of No to usa

Posted by: apemans on February 3, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

We republicans refuse to let reality interfer with our talking points!

So what if we lie!

We lie.
We know that we lie.
Our base believes all our lies.
Our corporate media will not refute our lies.
Our corporate media will continue their assigned roles as echo chambers and amplifiers for our lies.
We will continue to lie.

Get over it! As our wealthy benefactors learn the best usages of Citzens United (Not Timid) vs FEC, our dominance of the 'facts' that are presented to the amerikan sheeple will become even greater.

F*ck democracy! F*ck an informed publik! Corporate/wealthy rule is on the way and here to stay!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on February 3, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

If in fact Abdul-whats-his-name has been co-operating it's because he was being aggressively interrogated by a conservative FBI agent who hasn't yet been purged by the BHO regime.

Posted by: Al on February 3, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans want the "war on terror" to be a perpetual, if incompetent, engagement. They're threatened by any effort to successfully execute it.

Posted by: Andrew in Berkeley on February 3, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Al, do you lie awake o' nights thinking up such convoluted fantasies? Or is your brain just wired that way so it comes out naturally? Are you this perverse and sour in your daily life or do you save it up for release in these venues where no one really knows your name?

BTW my name is Jerry Rosen and I live in New Jersey. If you want to hassle me in person, I'm here. But I get to answer back.

Posted by: jrosen on February 3, 2010 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

I think the only recourse at this point is mockery, since neither facts nor common sense nor the plain meaning of the Consitution as affirmed by even the most conservative members of the SCOTUS will sway these people.
Every time they raise these issues, simply remind them, in the most condescending way, that we don't live in a fictional television show, and then quote the Constitution, and remind them that even Justice Scalia affirmed non-citizens' rights to due process when on American soil. Mock, mock, mock, then watch them make even bigger fools of themselves as they try to claim that even their biggest conservative heroes are wrong.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on February 3, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

... and then, after the mockery, punch them in the throat.

Posted by: Gonads on February 3, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

The Rethug response has nothing to do with national security. It has everything to do with political posturing. To paraphrase a very revered and patriotic American who walks on water and whose shit don't stink, sometimes you have to go with the reality you wish you had, not the one you got.

Posted by: Chopin on February 3, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Conservatives have been on the offensive, but they've been attacking from a position of weakness and ignorance.

And when that stops working, they'll stop doing it.

Posted by: qwerty on February 3, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Christmas underpants bomber had to be treated as a criminal defendant. He committed a crime in US airspace. Sorry, but the Constitution trumps television fantasy. In addition it is also good policy and he is providing us with actionable intelligence, something nobody has ever gotten with a waterboard.

I don't know how many times we have to repeat this, but waterboarding was intended by its inventors to secure false confessions from innocent political prisoners without bruising. It works beautifully when used as intended. Actionable intelligence is not the same thing as a false confession. Actionable intelligence is used to stop further plots and to catch bad guys, not to help politicians change public perception.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 3, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Don't worry about Susan Collins, I have that situation under control. Yesterday I typed and emailed her office a incoherent rant.

Posted by: Maineiac on February 3, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

The U.S. has been known to invade or threaten to invade countries when they feel U.S. citizens are accused of crimes and not given what the U.S. considers due process.

I did expect better of Susan Collins--don't ask me why.

Posted by: Tired liberal on February 3, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

RepublicanPointOfView: Thanks for reminding us of ACTUAL REALITY .......

Posted by: stormskies on February 3, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"You run to ground what he tells you, validate it and follow up. You build a relationship. It's a pretty standard process."

- and has been a 'pretty standard process' in police departments all across the land.

Oh, and the prisons are full of Miranda-ized, lawyered up CONVICTED felons. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 3, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, aren't you glad we spent so much time trying to deal rationally with Collins and Snowe on HCR?

"Conservatives have been on the offensive, but they've been attacking from a position of weakness and ignorance. This isn't the way to improve already-suspect credibility on national security matters."

It only hurts you if the opposition takes your false arguments AND BEATS THE LIVING CRAP OUT OF YOU with them. Otherwise, it's business as usual.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that Abdulmutallab is talking to investigators is good news. I think it is understandable but unfortunate that the Obama Administration feels the need to go public with that information and the fact that his family was enlisted to help. The right wing media hacks and Republican officeholders who have been playing politics with our national security, pounding them for supposedly mishandling (i.e. not torturing) the suspect have forced the administration to reveal more information than would otherwise be be advisable. Do you suppose the Right will learn a lesson and not try to weaken the president's hand in dealing with terrorists in the future?

Posted by: Glenn H on February 3, 2010 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Do you suppose the Right will learn a lesson and not try to weaken the president's hand in dealing with terrorists in the future?

NO. This hase been yet another edition of SATSQ.

Posted by: G.Kerby on February 3, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

"BTW my name is Jerry Rosen and I live in New Jersey. If you want to hassle me in person, I'm here. But I get to answer back."
Posted by: jrosen on February 3, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Bro, I love you -- in a manly, heterosexually-appropriate kinda way (not that there'd be anything wrong with any other way, of course)

"I did expect better of Susan Collins--don't ask me why."
Posted by: Tired liberal on February 3, 2010 at 10:44 AM

We have a great poker game every Sunday nite.
I think you'd really enjoy it.
Bring lots of money.

Posted by: smartalek on February 3, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK
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