After five weeks of exercising his “right to remain silent,” the Christmas bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has finally begun cooperating, and according to The Washington Post is now “providing FBI interrogators with useful intelligence about his training and contacts.” Administration officials are hawking this development as a vindication of their patient approach to Abdulmutallab’s questioning. The Post even declares that this “[r]esult counters recent criticism of the case’s handling.”
That anyone can consider five weeks of utter silence from this high-value terrorist as a success is stunning. Abudulmutallab was supposed to be vaporized along with Northwest Flight 253. The moment al-Qaida learned that he had survived and was in U.S. government custody, they began taking countermeasures to cover his tracks.
Every hour, every day, every week that went by gave them precious time to close bank accounts, e-mail addresses, phone numbers he knew about, and shut down training camps, safe houses, and other intelligence leads he could have given us. Terrorists he knew about have been put into hiding, and other leads that were hot in the days immediately following his capture have since gone cold. The intelligence he possessed was perishable. Each moment that passed that he was not speaking meant lost counterterrorism opportunities.
The mishandling of Abdulmutallab’s questioning is an intelligence failure of massive proportions. And it highlights the problem with the Obama administration’s approach to terrorist interrogation. The administration’s approach is built on a law-enforcement model unsuited for the challenges of the war on terror. Here is why:
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