BRENNAN MAKES IT PLAIN….John Brennan, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser, has, as Adam Serwer noted this morning, “become the point man for the administration’s pushback against GOP criticism on national security. ” That appears to be a good move — Brennan does not suffer fools gladly.
The former CIA official was forceful and persuasive on the Sunday shows over the weekend, and has a brief-but-compelling op-ed in USA Today. It’s not quite 400 words, but Brennan’s piece identifies the main Republican complaints of late, and then explains how wrong they are.
For example, the GOP insists Abdulmutallab was only interrogated for 50 minutes, during which time he provided nothing of value. The administration, Republicans argue, should have coordinated with other agencies outside the Justice Department. Brennan explains:
Immediately after the failed Christmas Day attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was thoroughly interrogated and provided important information. Senior counterterrorism officials from the White House, the intelligence community and the military were all actively discussing this case before he was Mirandized and supported the decision to charge him in criminal court.
The GOP is outraged that Abdulmutallab was read his rights, when he should have been labeled an enemy combatant and headed off to the military. Brennan explains:
The most important breakthrough occurred after Abdulmutallab was read his rights, which the FBI made standard policy under Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s attorney general. The critics who want the FBI to ignore this long-established practice also ignore the lessons we have learned in waging this war: Terrorists such as Jose Padilla and Saleh al-Mari did not cooperate when transferred to military custody, which can harden one’s determination to resist cooperation.
It’s naive to think that transferring Abdulmutallab to military custody would have caused an outpouring of information. There is little difference between military and civilian custody, other than an interrogator with a uniform. The suspect gets access to a lawyer, and interrogation rules are nearly identical.
Would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid was read his Miranda rights five minutes after being taken off a plane he tried to blow up. The same people who criticize the president today were silent back then.
The GOP believes military courts are more effective for terrorism cases. Brennan explains:
Cries to try terrorists only in military courts lack foundation. There have been three convictions of terrorists in the military tribunal system since 9/11, and hundreds in the criminal justice system — including high-profile terrorists such as Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarius Moussaoui.
The GOP is convinced the Obama administration isn’t being effective or aggressive enough on counter-terrorism. Brennan explains:
This administration’s efforts have disrupted dozens of terrorist plots against the homeland and been responsible for killing and capturing hundreds of hard-core terrorists, including senior leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond — far more than in 2008. We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war.
The GOP perceives terrorists as Super Villains with Super Powers. Brennan explains:
Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill. They will, however, be dismantled and destroyed, by our military, our intelligence services and our law enforcement community. And the notion that America’s counterterrorism professionals and America’s system of justice are unable to handle these murderous miscreants is absurd.