Richard Reid ‘A Mistake, Not a Precedent’ says Andrew McCarthy (actually, Eric Holder set the precedent)

Andrew McCarthy writes in the NRO today “We need not repeat the mistakes of Reid with Abdulmutallab.”

First, there was still very strong reason to believe that a second wave of attacks was imminent. Reid’s attempt strengthened these suspicions. In contrast to today’s relative calm, the country was on the direst kind of war footing: in fear of a raft of new domestic attacks only weeks after a strike deadlier than Pearl Harbor. In exigent circumstances, you tend to go with what you know, because you don’t have the luxury of time to think through something better.

Second, although no one seems to remember this now, the anthrax attacks had just happened. Again, they fortified the sense that the next mass-murder attack was just around the corner. In December 2001, it was all hands on deck to pore over available intelligence reports, look for patterns, and figure out where the next hit might come. Forging a new enforcement paradigm for the litigation of terrorism cases was not a priority.

McCarthy points out Reid was just one of many attacks we saw. Allowing Richard Reid to remain silent did nothing to prevent Flight 253. Instead of making that same mistake, President Bush had thousands of terrorists interrogated and dozens of attacks were prevented; not affording Constitutional rights to terrorists (besides Reid) prevented those attacks. Initially repeating a past mistake with Abdulmuttalab is not mitigated by the fact President Bush “did it” eight years earlier.

McCarthy went on to write:

That brings us to a third point Democrats would prefer to forget: “The Wall,” the internal regulations adopted by the Clinton Justice Department in 1995, had made it practically impossible for intelligence agents to compare notes with criminal investigators and prosecutors. Indeed, the Wall prevented the apprehension of two of the 9/11 terrorists, a dereliction that blew any chance to foil the plot.

The Wall was also a mistake, one that cost lives. I don’t hear anyone in the Obama administration saying we need to regard it as a precedent that binds our hands today.

My words: No, they don’t say it; Eric Holder just does it. He has a habit of repeating major mistakes.

Between August 1997 and October 2000, then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder was formally informed three times that the Wall was preventing the sharing of information between FBI intelligence and FBI criminal investigators.

Eric Holder did nothing to fix a mistake that would have prevented 9/11. By conducting a criminal investigation of the previous administration’s foreign policy, Holder greatly increased the same kind of risk aversion within our intelligence agencies that led to the Wall’s creation.

Lots of people die when Attorney Generals and Presidents make mistakes. Some number of us will live to regret the one just repeated with Abdulmuttalab; others will not be alive to regret it.

Obama administration misleads and repeats intelligence failures of the past

The Obama administration apparently never made or discovered a mistake not worth repeating.

Counter-terror chief John Brennan incredibly states the four Members of Congress he briefed on Christmas Day should have assumed Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab was read Miranda warnings. Yet the administration has given mixed signals on if and when terrorists will be provided a right to remain silent and a lawyer. For example, during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 18, 2009, in response to a question by Senator Amy Klobuchar, AG Eric Holder said:

“The people in the field have been making determinations about giving Miranda warnings or not for some time now. They have had thousands of people come into their custody; only a small number of them have been given Miranda warnings.”

Minutes before that, Holder refused to offer a clear opinion to Senator Lindsay Graham on whether custody begins (for the purpose of civilian trials and Miranda warnings) at the same time a terrorist is captured.

Congressman Pete Hoekstra is disputing John Brennan on both the facts and his presumptions:

Brennan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Hoekstra and other top Congressional Republicans were told on Christmas Day that the Detroit bomber was in FBI custody, and should have known that he would therefore be read his rights according to Miranda.

But Hoekstra tells National Review Online that it would have been unreasonable to infer any such thing from his phone call with Brennan, which was brief and carried over an unsecured line.

“He never brought this stuff up,” Hoekstra says, adding that the FBI was the natural choice to hold Abdulmutallab until a detainment and interrogation strategy could be settled. “No, I wouldn’t expect the military to be at Detroit Airport waiting to arrest somebody,” Hoekstra adds, but he thought the administration would carefully investigate alternatives and consult with national security principals before moving forward with Miranda rights and other criminal procedures.

Abdulmuttalab was not read Miranda warnings until approximately 11 PM Eastern time and it is likely Brennan briefed the four well before that time. While it is not clear Brennan then told them whether Abdulmuttalab had provided intelligence during his initial interrogation, we now know that he was not initially read the warnings. President Barack Obama has acknowledged that some number of agencies and personnel failed in their responsibilities prior to the Christmas Day attack and Abdulmuttalab stopped providing intelligence when read “his” rights. (AG Holder directed that he be Mirandized prior to the FBI’s clean team attempting to question him further.)

In addition, we know that on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, the White House Press Secretary’s Office intentionally leaked “on background” sensitive information to the media that Abdulmuttalab was now cooperating:

Gibbs explained that the White House felt the need to provide background briefings about what Abdulmutallab was now saying in order to “contextualize” the information after receiving inquiries from reporters.

In other words, the Obama administration was getting pounded for providing a foreign terrorist Constitution rights not afforded them in that document. The White House felt the need to push back politically. They leaked secrets, made the intelligence we are now getting from Abdulmuttalab less valuable, and then falsely implied that Senator Kit Bond had disclosed the information.

Stupid is as stupid does, that Richard Reid was read “his” rights was a poor example to follow; that too was an intelligence failure.

Reid was arrested not three months into our invasion of Afghanistan, while the hunt was still under way in Tora Bora, and several months before Jose Padilla, Binyam Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Ramzi Binalshibh were captured. Bush 43 could have ordered Reid turned over for military detention as his November 13, 2001 Military Order proscribed and yet he at least seemed to learn from his mistake; he ordered Padilla turned over for military detention and the rest eventually ended up at Gitmo.

After leaving Afghanistan, Reid traveled separately through several countries in the Middle East. His interrogation would likely have provided valuable intelligence on both al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the contacts he made during those travels. Only through the interrogations of other detainees was Reid’s accomplice, Saajid Badat, discovered and arrested, in England in November 2003. Ten months after Reid pled guilty, British police found Badat’s still armed shoe-bomb when they searched the home of his parents. Badat did not use his bomb for he had had a change of heart, immediately confessed to police, told them how to disarm the device, and pled guilty. Richard Reid was (and is) a committed jihadist who we should have interrogated.

Update, February 9, 2010: Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com reports that John Brennan is at it some more, in USA Today:

Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. 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.

Ed also has a link there to Byron York’s deconstruction of Brennan’s op-ed.