Collins, Lieberman introduce bill to require the obvious

The Weekly Standard feels the need to explain to its readers that this headline comes not from an article in the satirical magazine The Onion, but from an actual press release from Capitol Hill by Senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman:


Er, wouldn’t we do that already?  Apparently not, as Collins and Lieberman explain:

The legislation would address a serious error that occurred in the handling of the so-called Christmas Day terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was charged in civilian criminal court.

At a Homeland Security Committee meeting Wednesday, Senator Collins learned during her questioning of witnesses that none of the three top U.S. intelligence officials had been consulted about that important decision. The determination to place Abdulmutallab into the U.S. civilian court system was made without their input or knowledge.

Senator Collins said this mistake “may have prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to the United States. Frankly, I was stunned to learn that the decision to place the captured terrorist into the U.S. civilian criminal court system had been made without the input or the knowledge of any of those three top intelligence officials:  the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

“These officials were never consulted by the Department of Justice. The decision was made without them.”

And what exactly did that mean for garnering more intelligence?

Senator Collins said that the decision to place Abdulmutallab in civilian court “likely foreclosed the collection of additional intelligence information.  We know that interrogations of terrorists can provide critical intelligence, but our civil justice system, as opposed to military detention, encourages terrorists to ‘lawyer-up’ and stop answering questions.

“Indeed, that was the case here.  Abdulmutallab had provided some information to law enforcement officials in the hours immediately after his capture, and we surely would have obtained more if we had treated this foreign terrorist as an enemy belligerent and placed him in the military tribunal system.”

Her bill would require that the nation’s senior intelligence officials be consulted before the decision is made to try future foreign terrorists in civilian court.

Who made the decision necessitating a bill that now requires the consultation of counterterrorism officials in the area of counterterrorismByron York has a prime suspect in this whodunit:

It was Holder who made the decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a criminal trial in New York. It is Holder who has expressed his desire to grant full American constitutional rights to foreign terrorists. It is Holder who is leading the administration’s sputtering effort to move some Guantanamo inmates to the United States. And it is Holder who is apparently cutting other parts of the government out of crucial terrorism decisions like the treatment of Abdulmutallab. …

That was the message of Wednesday’s testimony from Blair, Leiter, Napolitano, and Mueller, all of whom were out of the loop on the Adbulmutallab decision. Their accounts left a number of Republican senators shaken; as the GOP lawmakers see it, the decision to read Abdulmutallab Miranda rights was a dreadful mistake, one that could have serious consequences down the line. There should be some accountability.

So on Thursday all seven Republicans on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Holder asking for a full explanation: Who made the decision and why, and whether the administration now has “a protocol or policy in place for handling al Qaeda terrorists captured in the United States.”

Republicans were troubled by the decision even before Wednesday’s testimony showed that major administration figures knew nothing about it. Now, the lawmakers want to know what happened, and they believe the only person who can tell them is Holder.

This is also rather obvious.  If the FBI director didn’t get consulted but his agents consulted “the Department of Justice and others in the administration,” Mueller testified, which means above his head.  And that means Holder and the White House.

Since when did Eric Holder become The Decider on terrorism issues?  True, Abdulmutallab was taken into custody in Detroit, but it was obvious from the get-go that this had international implications.  First clue: the flight originated outside the US.  With that in mind, how did the Attorney General come to the decision that the EunuchBomber not only should get booked rather than given to intel officers for more interrogation that might have exposed other potential bombers — without even picking up the phone to talk to counterterrorism heads?

We can’t connect dots when officials responsible for national security conduct petty turf wars and refuse to consult each other.  Just for that alone, Holder should get fired.  Republicans don’t have the juice to press for that at the moment, so instead they’re going to make it an explicit dereliction of duty the next time Holder tries it.