By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
All seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder seeking to learn who made the decision to treat Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused Christmas Day terrorist bomber, as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant. On the same day he tried to detonate a bomb aboard a Northwest Airlines plane in Detroit, Abdulmutallab, who was trained by al Qaeda in Yemen, was informed of his Miranda right to remain silent and given a government-paid lawyer. He then refused to cooperate with U.S. authorities.
The letter is signed by GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions, Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassley, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn. The lawmakers were rattled by testimony yesterday before both the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee by some of the nation’s top law enforcement and anti-terrorism officials. All of those who testified — FBI director Robert Mueller, National Counterterrorism Center director Michael Leiter, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano — said they were not consulted about the decision to handle Abdulmutallab in the criminal courts.
The letter asks who made the decision as well as the basis for the decision. In addition, it asks Holder to answer “whether the administration has a protocol or policy in place for handling al Qaeda terrorists captured in the United States.”
“We believe the Department’s hasty decision to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Abdulmutallab deprived our intelligence agencies of a critical opportunity to interrogate an al Qaeda-trained terrorist who was fresh from training in Yemen,” the lawmakers write. “Had Mr. Abdulmutallab been transferred to military custody as an unlawful enemy belligerent, our government would have had more time to gain an understanding of the terrorist training and recruiting network on the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the activities of al Qaeda in Nigeria. More importantly, a thorough and unrushed interrogation might have revealed information to detect and disrupt the next terrorist attack. However, because Mr. Abdulmutallab was given Miranda rights and ceased cooperating, that information is now lost.”