Today's Reading Assignment
...from former CIA Director Michael Hayden, writing in the Washington Post. In his op-ed, General Hayden notes that the Obama Administration has taken "several wrong paths" in its counter-terrorism strategy. Then, he proceeds to blast the President and his national security team. A few sample paragraphs:
We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not "an isolated extremist." He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.
In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?
When questioning its detainees, the CIA routinely turns the information provided over to its experts for verification and recommendations for follow-up. The responses of these experts -- "Press him more on this, he knows the details" or "First time we've heard that" -- helps set up more detailed questioning.
None of that happened in Detroit. In fact, we ensured that it wouldn't. After the first session, the FBI Mirandized Abdulmutallab and -- to preserve a potential prosecution -- sent in a "clean team" of agents who could have no knowledge of what Abdulmutallab had provided before he was given his constitutional warnings. As has been widely reported, Abdulmutallab then exercised his right to remain silent.
Hayden also notes that the administration has failed to assemble its highly-touted high-value interrogation group, designed to debrief terrorism suspects. But there has been no difficulty in building a legal team to interrogate intelligence operatives accused of violating those suspect's rights. As Hayden observes, the Obama "approach" to terrorism has
devastated morale among field agents:
Intelligence officers need to know that someone has their back. After the Justice memos (that authorized enhanced interrogations) were released in April, CIA officers began to ask whether the people doing things that were currently authorized would be dragged through this kind of public knothole in five years. No one could guarantee that they would not.
Some may celebrate that the current Justice Department's perspective on the war on terrorism has become markedly more dominant in the past year. We should probably understand the implications of that before we break out the champagne. That apparently no one recommended on Christmas Day that Abdulmutallab be handled, at least for a time, as an enemy combatant should be concerning. That our director of national intelligence, Denny Blair, bravely said as much during congressional testimony this month is cause for hope.
But our hopes should be tempered. After Blair made those remarks, he was publicly criticized by the White House and directed to "revise" his comments. Dutifully, Admiral Blair did just that.