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Posts Tagged ‘Underpants Bomber’

Thanks To Obama’s Rejection Of Torture, Abdulmuttalab Has Been Providing Intel On Al Qaeda

Think Progress- By Matt Duss at 12:35 pm

President Obama’s counter-terrorism approach — especially his decision to publicly reject torture — received a huge vindication yesterday with the news that the FBI has been working with the family of the failed Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, and that “Abdulmuttalab has been cooperating with authorities and sharing intelligence since last Thursday”:

The agents and key family members arrived in back in the US on January 17th. The family members met with officials from the Justice Department and the FBI to plan a way forward.

“One of the principal reasons why his family came back is because they had complete trust in the US system of justice and believed that Umar Farouq would be treated fairly and appropriately,” the senior official said. “And that they would be as well.”

The FBI and Abdulmuttalab’s family approached the subject and “gained his cooperation. He has been cooperating for days,” the official said.

A key point here is that there is very little chance that Abdulmuttalab’s family would have agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government in getting Abdulmuttalab to talk if they suspected that he was in any danger of being tortured. This is a clear example of how President Obama’s bringing U.S. counter-terrorism practices back within the rule of law is making Americans safer.

A federal official told the New York Times that “the intelligence gained has been disseminated throughout the intelligence community,” and “the best way to get him to talk was working with his family.”

ABC also reported that “Abdulmuttalab was talking to FBI agents on Saturday, at the same time Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, issued the Republican response to the president’s weekly address, decrying Abdulmuttalab’s presence in the criminal justice system.”

It’s ironic that that Abdulmuttalab was providing information at the very moment conservatives were hyperventilating about the administration’s terrorism approach. The case also indicates that Obama’s decision to try the terrorist in criminal court has not served to cut off any information the U.S. could glean from Abdulmuttalab, as many critics have claimed. As CAP’s Ken Gude recently wrote, “The facts are clear: Criminal courts are a far tougher and more reliable forum for prosecuting terrorists than military commissions”:

The record of recent terrorism investigations demonstrates that interviews with terrorists who have attorneys have produced “an intelligence goldmine.”

False assumptions are driving the debate about the tools available to fight terrorism. President Obama needs to cut through the noise and use the tough and proven criminal justice system as a vital weapon in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Fortunately, it seems the president is doing just that.

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For much of the last decade, the Republican line about liberals has been that whenever we downplayed the urgency of the so-called terrorist threat (or dared to criticize then-President Bush for that matter) we were somehow emboldening the terrorists.

For example, during the 2004 campaign, John Kerry was annihilated by the Dick Cheney wingnut right when he said, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.”

Oh holy hell! Kerry said what?!

He was exactly right, of course, both strategically and rhetorically. The senator was outlining how we ought to be simultaneously destroying al-Qaeda and, in the “home of the brave,” we ought to be acting like grown-ups rather than a nation of scared little pee-pants infants frightened of unseen toe monsters lurking under the bed.

Cheney and others, in response to Kerry, were very clearly implying that terrorism was always going to be a serious and existential threat to America — that we have every right to be both terrified and terrorized — therefore we absolutely have to torture people, undermine the rule of law, preemptively invade sovereign nations and, naturally, elect Republicans in order to be safe.

What the far-right has never grasped, however, is that the whole point of a terrorist attack isn’t necessarily to kill people. The point is to terrorize. Scott Shanes in the New York Times quoted a former Homeland Security and CIA official:

“We give comfort to our enemies,” said Charles E. Allen, a 40-year C.I.A. veteran who served as the top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security from 2007 to early last year. Exaggerated news coverage and commentary, he said, “creates an atmosphere of tension and fear, and to me that’s exactly the wrong way to go.”

Fareed Zakaria spelled it out even further this week:

The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.

In the case of the Underpants Bomber, by collectively losing our shit and inflating a minor fracas out of proportion — by acting as though this was a major bloody attack and subsequently acquiescing to full body scans and further violations of our civil liberties, we’re handing al-Qaeda an easy victory. The attempt was a failure, but the overreaction in its aftermath turned it into an easy win for al-Qaeda.

Good job, Republicans. Good job, Fox News.

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The Republican record on terrorism is pretty damn terrible. Naturally, this hasn’t stopped them from milking whatever remains of their purely cosmetic tough-guy reputation in order to fear-monger the failed Underpants Bomber incident irrespective of their lengthy history of failure, cowardice and stupidity on the issue.

I think we all understand and begrudgingly accept that Americans have a short attention span, and an even shorter memory, but the Republicans are really counting on it as they exploit the post-underpants freakout.

For example, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said the other day:

I’m hopeful that the president will become forceful, that we will return back to the direction where we are prosecuting the war on terror

I know. It doesn’t read very well, but the senator was suggesting that we go back to the way the Bush/Cheney team ran the “war on terror” — that the previous administration’s strategy was much more effective. Another attempt to sell the inaccurate notion that shit-kicker boots, a southern drawl, a waterboard and hillbilly bumper-sticker justice succeeded in knocking al-Qaeda into oblivion.

Wrong.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaeda has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document — titled “al-Qaeda better positioned to strike the West” — called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

This wasn’t some sort of early, post-9/11 assessment that can be scapegoated on the Clinton administration. If you recall, this NIE was released to the press in July of 2007. A year and a half before President Obama was elected, six and a half years after Bill Clinton left office, and six and a half years into the Bush presidency.

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s public relations apparatus was firing on all cylinders Wednesday morning, with the release of a predictable statement about the failed Underpants Bomber fracas. And by “public relations apparatus” I mean “cable news and Politico.”

Needless to say, Cheney is well-qualified to take an authoritative posture when it comes to terrorism. After all, he and his little buddy “kept us safe” from terrorist attacks for eight years, right? Other than the worst terrorist attack in American history, of course, along with the Anthrax Attacks, the Beltway Snipers, the thousands of terrorist attacks on our contractors and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the attacks on our allies in London and Madrid, Cheney did a fine job keeping us safe (more about this in my book). Good job, Mr. Cheney!

So it wasn’t any surprise when Cheney stopped thumbing through Uncle Billy’s misplaced $8,000 long enough to fire off a few words about the failed Underpants Bomber attempt and the Obama administration’s response. And since Dick Cheney is a very serious terrorism expert — mainly because more Americans died in terrorist attacks on his watch than any other vice president ever — the media gobbled it up, practically unchallenged. Cheney said:

As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war.

First of all, way to condemn the attempted attack, Mr. Cheney — oh wait, you didn’t condemn anything other than the president. Sorry. You chose instead to attack the commander-in-chief while troops are in harm’s way. Weren’t you guys totally against that sort of thing, by the way? Oh right. Everything prior to January 20, 2009 doesn’t count.

But that last part about giving “terrorists the rights of Americans” and letting them “lawyer up,” is fascinating coming from Mr. Cheney.

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