Ever since Nigerian Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, Republicans and conservatives have been attacking and politicizing the Obama administration’s response. Many have been whining that Abdulmutallab had not been properly interrogated and that valuable information has been lost. In an attempt to bash the Obama administration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today denigrated U.S. counterterrorism officials:
MCCONNELL: This was a person who was trying to blow a plane out of the air from Nigeria. It’s clearly a case for the military and for our intelligence people, not for the U.S. court system. What happened? He was given a 50 minute interrogation, probably Larry King has interrogated people longer and better than that. After which he was assigned a lawyer who told him to shut up. That is not the way to deal with someone in the war on terror.
It seems McConnell would rather try to score political points by undermining the work American counterterror officials are doing in the field, particularly in Abdulmutallab’s case, where key information has actually been gleaned. In fact, reports surfaced this week that Abdulmutallab “has been cooperating for days” with the FBI. But this isn’t the first time a Republican has tried to attack the administration by insulting U.S. agents. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that getting information from Abdulmutallab was “blind luck.”
According to the Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman, former FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan, who has interrogated al Qaeda members, said “What would you expect from Mitch McConnell? … They just don’t know what they’re talking about. They really don’t“:
“People keep talking about Mirandizing as if it’s a preventive measure, getting someone to shut up, but most critics have never been in position [to] have to Mirandize one,” Cloonan said. “It’s to keep pristine information you’ve already gotten and to have a prosecutable case. It’s not the end of an interview. … They’re gonna get all kinds of information from this guy.”
In fact, Abdulmutallab’s family members convinced him to provide information to U.S. authorities, an outcome that resulted from U.S. counterterror agents working in Africa “to gain an understanding of the subject.” “The intelligence gained has been disseminated throughout the intelligence community,” a senior administration official said. “The best way to get him to talk was working with his family.”