In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama expressed a renewed commitment to protecting our homeland and fighting terrorism abroad. Yet serious concerns remain regarding whether his policies and recent actions truly reflect those words. When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab--the Christmas Bomber--was detained in Detroit, he was handed over to law enforcement officials after minimal questioning. As it turns out, this questioning had resulted in Abdulmutallab providing valuable information about the attack and the organization that sponsored it. Somehow, the decision was made to read him Miranda Rights--the rights awarded to common criminals in America--giving him the option to go silent, avoid interrogation and obtain legal support. Because of this, crucial information about al Qaeda's activities in the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere has been lost.
The detainment and subsequent handling of the Christmas bomber raise many questions. Why wasn't he properly and extensively interrogated? Why was Abdulmutallab treated like an American criminal, with American rights? Who made this decision? And most importantly: How serious is President Obama about fighting terrorism?
The treatment of Abdulmutallab as an American criminal demonstrates a glaring contradiction in President Obama's national security policy. The United States today is heavily dependent upon intelligence about Islamic terrorist networks in order to help defend against attacks and strike against their weaknesses. Before law enforcement officials took control of Abdulmutallab, we were in the middle of acquiring such intelligence from him. Yet in reading him Miranda rights, which begin with, "You have the right to remain silent," we were inviting a captured terrorist with valuable information about his organization not to talk to us. Such an approach constitutes a stark contradiction and is completely incompatible for a country at war.
To protect our national security, enemy combatants should not be treated like common criminals: they should not have Constitutional rights or the option of pleading 'not guilty' and escaping into the protected maze of the American court system. Already, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has made it clear Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated more thoroughly. Blair and other top intelligence officials have acknowledged they were not even consulted before this decision was made.
The Obama Administration has not revealed who ordered that Abdulmutallab be treated as a common criminal. What we need now is for the President to come forward with a crystal clear national security policy that actually accomplishes what the title implies: the security of our nation.
He must assure all Americans of his commitment to protecting our country, starting by keeping unrepentant terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. He must end the expensive circus of trying 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammad in a New York City court and avoid this enemy propaganda opportunity. He must draw a firm line between our enemies and the American rights and liberties they seek to destroy.