White House considered treating Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant

At that NSC meeting were Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was not disclosed who raised the question.

In the discussion, it was pointed out that the FBI was working the case, that it had interrogators ready and that two counterterrorism agents were already in Nigeria, beginning a background investigation of Abdulmutallab and his large family…

One factor pointed out during the NSC discussion was that when a person is held in military detention and questioned, it inevitably involves people who wear military uniforms. Those present were told that “it was the professional, considered judgment of the individuals who had access to Abdulmutallab that putting him in front of somebody with a military uniform would have made him even more opposed to any type of cooperation,” the senior administration official said at last week’s briefing.

“Given what we can do in a military commission and what we can do in the criminal justice system, there was full unanimity on the part of the seniors [President Obama and other NSC members at the meeting] that this was the right way to go,” reporters were told last week.