Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) besmirched the reputation of FBI agents who interrogated terrorist Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab after he was arrested. “He was given a 50 minute interrogation, probably Larry King has interrogated people longer and better than that,” McConnell said on Fox News.
This morning on ABC’s This Week, Center for American Progress Action Fund President and CEO John Podesta noted that intelligence agents have skillfully secured the cooperation of Abdulmuttalab’s family. Because his family was assured that Abdulmuttalab was not being tortured, they worked with the FBI to convince the terrorist to talk. Abdulmuttalab then provided intelligence, some of which was apparently used to capture terrorists in Malaysia.
“I think you can huff and puff as former Governor Palin likes to do, but the proof’s in the pudding — he’s talking, they’ve gotten actionable intelligence, they’re acting on it,” Podesta said. When conservative pundit Peggy Noonan complained that the administration shouldn’t have told the public that Abdulmuttalab was cooperating, Podesta suggested disclosure may not have been necessary if political leaders like McConnell weren’t criticizing intelligence agents:
PODESTA: Maybe if all those politicians stopped attacking the FBI – Mitch McConnell likened the FBI to a Larry King interview – maybe if they stopped with the politics —
RUTH MARCUS: Now that’s cruel.
PODESTA: Well, no, I think he owes the FBI an apology. But if they’d stop with the politics, maybe they wouldn’t have to respond.
Later, Podesta defended the FBI: “I tend to listen to the professionals, and other people tend to listen to Governor Palin.”
He also referenced Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) “blanket hold” on Obama’s 70 executive nominees — two of whom include the head of the State Department intelligence official and the Homeland Security intelligence official. “What gives here?” Podesta asked. “Are these people serious or are they just playing politics?
On Meet the Press this morning, Obama’s homeland security adviser John Brennan noted that Republican leaders were briefed immediately following Abdulmuttalab’s arrest, and none of them raised the criticisms that they are issuing now:
JOHN BRENNAN: On Christmas night, I called a number of– senior members of Congress. I spoke to Senators McConnell and Bond. I spoke to Representative Boehner and Hoekstra. I explained to them that he was in F.B.I. custody. That Mr. Abdulmutallab was in fact talking. That he was cooperating at that point. They knew that in F.B.I. custody means that there’s a process then you follow as far as mirandizing and presenting him in front of the magistrate.
None of those individuals raised any concerns with me, at that point. They didn’t say, “Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be mirandized?” They were very appreciative of the information. We told them we’d keep them informed. And that’s what we did. So, there’s been– quite a bit of an outcry after the fact. Where again, I’m just very concerned on behalf of the counterterrorism professionals throughout our government that politicians continue to make this a political football. And are using it for whatever political or partisan purposes.