Obama administration officials are fearful that Blair may have ended up hand-delivering their Republican critics an issue by his misinformed remarks. “I didn’t think there was going to be a fall guy for the Detroit incident,” said the senior official. “But Blair may have just talked himself into being one.” — Michael Isakoff, Newsweek magazine, January 21, 2010
Apparently, those same White House officials did not dispute DNI Dennis Blair telling the Senate
Intelligence Homeland Security Committee that, “The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody. They received important intelligence at that time.” They could not dispute him as FBI Director Mueller told the Senate Judiciary exactly the same thing, that very same day.
I don’t believe that Director Robert Mueller told the whole truth.
Eli Lake of the Washington Times reported (‘Blair: FBI mishandled bomb case’):
“It appears to me that we lost an opportunity to secure some valuable intelligence information, and that the process that Director Blair described should have been implemented in this case,” Ms. Collins said. Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the administration’s intelligence officials “fumbled the Christmas Day terrorist case.”
“That this administration chose to shut out our top intelligence officials and forgo collecting potentially lifesaving intelligence is a dangerous sign,” Mr. Bond said in a statement.
Mr. Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to ignite a military-grade explosive known as PETN that was sewn into his underwear on the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25. The plot failed, and FBI agents apprehended Mr. Abdulmutallab in Detroit. He was questioned for at least two hours before agents read him his Miranda rights, which allowed him to have an attorney before answering further questions.
Mueller cited “Quarles” which indicates FBI agents initially believed “the use of the Miranda warnings could be avoided” because “public safety was at issue” (New York v Quarles). Perhaps limiting questions to asking Abdulmuttalab if he had accomplices aboard Flight 253 (who might also have bombs) and if bombers were aboard additional aircraft currently in flight or soon to depart would be upheld by the courts.
Yet at least two hours went by before they read Abdulmuttalab the warnings because FBI agents know similar and simultaneous attacks are al Qaeda’s M.O. and Abdulmuttalab told them “twenty-five” others had trained with him in Yemen. Surely the agents would have alerted the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in Detroit or its Assistant U.S. Attorney.
If FBI agents made the decision, it was left to them to decide, after word reached some level above them and came back down. Director Mueller, DNI Blair, DHS Secretary Napolitano, and NCTC Director Lieter all claimed to not have been asked.
Attorney General Eric Holder knows who advised the FBI agents. The Senate should ask him if he or the President made the call and if not, who left a national security policy decision up to “agents on the ground.”