Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has retained legal representation after failing to blow up flight 253 and The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb is outdone
It sounds like he was singing when they first got him, and of course we now know that the government already had enough information on him to justify sending a Blackwater hit team after him, but now that the people with all that information are finally in a position to ask the questions — LAWYER. And let's not pretend that the FBI was asking him the right questions over the weekend as they told reporters they were still working under the assumption that the Nigerian had "acted alone." The CIA may have known he was al Qaeda months ago, but the FBI apparently didn't know until Monday — after al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. But now he's got a lawyer, and we can't interrogate him, we can't smack him around, we can't lay a finger on him.
Goldfarb's indignation seems reasonable. Useful intelligence may have fumbled away because ole boy lawyered up. Except Goldfarb overlooks one minor detail that Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent does not
Well, yes, we can’t smack him around, and that’s a good thing, particularly if we want good intelligence and to promote the rule of law. Just because the guy lawyers up doesn’t mean we can’t interrogate him.
Oops. Goldfarb's desire to see a Jack Bauer moment might have hit a snag. Ackerman writes
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials I’ve talked to in the last several hours have been flabbergasted to hear this line of argument, because at its heart, it betrays a fundamental ignorance of the process. One who has experience in these matters called it “flat-out ignorance” to claim that the “criminal justice system or law enforcement methods impede the collection of actionable intelligence. There is no basis in fact.”
Why? Let me turn this over to a U.S. official deeply familiar with intelligence matters who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Abdulmutallab case. “I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge of the present matter, but if a terror suspect like Abdulmutallab invokes [his] right to silence, it does not mean law enforcement officials must cease the interview,” the official said. “It simply means inculpatory information probably will not be used in court.”
Ackerman - 1, Goldfarb - 0