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Incoherent Policy, Incoherently Executed, Part III

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The scandal concerning the botched interrogation of the Christmas day bomber continues to grow.  Senators Lieberman and Collins today wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan urging them to designate the bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, as an "unprivileged enemy belligerent" so he can be "questioned and charged accordingly."

Whether the Attorney General has replied to this letter, or plans to, is not yet known. 

The Weekly Standard's Richard Starr suggests a possible explanation for the administration's inertia: If it were to rectify its error in the case of Abdulmutallab, it would raise the question why it refuses to rectify the same or similar error in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al. in New York. Indeed, it would in a sense be conceding the error.

As Scott Johnson notes, http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/01/025461.php:

"I am afraid there is an underlying source of the error in the erroneous principles that are guiding the Obama administration. As to acts of terorrorism committed in the United States, the Obama administration seems to have established a presumption that criminal treatment is appropriate."

If Scott is correct, then I too must concede error.  The administration's policy is not incoherent.  Instead, it is unified around an intelligible theme.  Unfortunately, that theme is dubious as a matter of law and absurd as a matter of national self-defense. 

Scott notes that, under the Attorney General's indecipherable protocol, http://www.justice.gov/opa/documents/taba-prel-rpt-dptf-072009.pdf,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was assigned for trial in federal court rather than before a military commission in Guantanamo. "But," Scott notes, "if the protocol is wrong in principle, decisions that comport with it will frequently err as well. Michael Isikoff provides some evidence of the Obama administration operating in a deliberative process under an erroneous principle in Abdulmutallab's case.

"The question remains: where does Obama stand on the case of Abdulmutallab? Does the buck stop with him, with Eric Holder or with the local FBI agents on the ground in New York. Stephen Hayes elaborates on the manifold absurdities at play in the administration's pronouncements on the Abdulmutallab case. As Hayes rightly notes, these pronouncements call into question the administration's [asserted] understanding that we are engaged in a war."

Still, it's only fair to note that the President has not been entirely inert in the face of this national security fiasco.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35030898/ns/politics-the_new_york_times/.

1 Comment

The real problem here is that these guys don't have the courage of their convictions. If they really believe that there should be a bias toward trials, then they should say so and move on from there. If they think that convicting these guys in civilian courts trumps national security concerns in most instances, that's a perfectly defensible position. I dont happen to agree, but hey, "[He] won." But what they're doing here is simply making themselves look like fools. They want to give the impression that national security is the number one consideration, but then their actions suggest otherwise, and you have this Keystone Kop routine. We all know that Holder's calling the shots. Why cant they just admit it? And we can all move on, instead of expressing bewilderment that national security folks are out of the loop.

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