Sunday, February 7, 2010

Richard Reid and John Brennan, an endless cycle of prevarications and obfuscations

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan defended the Obama administration's decision to mirandize Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and insisted that Republican lawmakers were made aware of the decision on Christmas night but did not raise any objection.

"On Christmas night, I called a number of senior members of Congress," Brennan said. "I spoke to Senators McConnell and Bond, I spoke to Representative Boehner and Hoekstra. I explained to them that he was in FBI custody... They knew that "in FBI custody" means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point.... And, quite frankly, I'm tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football."

Sen. Bond immediately issued a statement refuting Brennan's distortions:

"Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber -- if he had I would have told him the administration was making a mistake," Bond said. "The truth is that the administration did not even consult our intelligence chiefs, as DNI Blair testified, so its absurd to try to blame congressional leaders for this dangerous decision that gave terrorists a five week head start to cover their tracks."

Rep. Boehner also took exception to Brennan's allegation saying that while he had received a short call on his cell phone informing him that Abdulmuttalab had been taken into custody, he was never told that Abdulmuttalab would be treated as a civilian criminal.

"Instead of attempting to dodge responsibility, John Brennan and this Administration should focus on fixing the near-catastrophic intelligence breakdown that failed to prevent this attack," Boehner said.

Congressmen Hoekstra and McConnell also denied they had been informed of the decision.

McConnell spokesman, Don Stewart said that Mr. Brennan "is clearly trying to shift the focus away from the fact that their bad decisions gave terrorists in Yemen a weeks-long head start."

Rep. Hoekstra issued a similar statement.

Brennan also told Meet the Press that the decision to mirandize Abdulmutallab was no different than the Bush administration's decision - in December of 2001 - to try the 'Shoe Bomber', Richard Reid, in a civilian court. However, former U.S. attorney Mike Sullivan, who prosecuted Mr. Reid in a federal court, told Fox News last month that military tribunals had only been established a few weeks prior to the attempted shoe bombing incident and that he is confident that "had Mr. Reid's plane landed at Logan Airport in Dec. 2003, versus Dec. 2001, we would have had the discussion and made the determination as to whether or not holding Mr. Reid as an enemy combatant would have better served the country."

Sullivan conceded that additional intelligence information could have been gleaned from the Shoe Bomber had he been detained in a military prison and he said that a lot of intelligence will likely be be lost as a result of Abdulmutallab's civilian detention.

Incidentally, the Justice Dept. - last year - decided to move Richard Reid out of the isolation wing at the Supermax prison in Colorado:
Five months ago, British shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is serving a life sentence for his failed attempt in 2001 to blow up a trans-Atlantic airliner, was moved out of the isolation wing at the Supermax prison in Colorado -- prompting some conservative lawmakers to suggest that the Obama administration is making it possible for the self-proclaimed Al Qaeda terrorist to radicalize his fellow prisoners.

Critics said the move was part of what they say is a troubling pattern in the administration to treat terrorists with kid gloves.

"This decision is another product of the Obama administration's alarming effort to treat terrorist killers like everyday common criminals," said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a strong critic of the president's national security policies...


Mike Sullivan, the former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts who prosecuted Reid, said moving him out of isolation poses a risk.

"If he's in general population, it's not unusual that he could radicalize" others," Sullivan said. "Reid, if you look at him, he became radicalized because of contacts in the U.K. There is clear evidence that Al Qaeda uses inmates to recruit others to their radical positions."...
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