Monday, February 8, 2010

Brennan's Lie on Meet the Press

Sunday on Meet the Press, Obama's top counterterrorism advisor lashed out at Republicans for criticizing the administration's handling of Abdulmutallab after the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt. From the Washington Post:
Brennan said that on Christmas night he had briefed four senior House and Senate Republicans about Abdulmutallab, who was "in FBI custody" and at that point "talking" and "cooperating." He said that at no point did any of the four -- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Republican minority leader; Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), ranking GOP member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader; and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking minority member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence -- raise concerns about Abdulmutallab being placed in military custody or being Mirandized.

Brennan said "quite a bit of an outcry after the fact" led him to be "concerned on behalf of the counterterrorism professionals" that politicians are using the issue for partisan purposes, whether they be Democrats or Republicans.

On Sunday, all four Republicans took issue with Brennan's characterization of their Christmas night conversations. Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said the senator was given only "a heads-up that Abdulmutallab was in custody, but little else. He wasn't told of the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab." Bond said he also was never told of the decision and added, "It's absurd to try to blame congressional leaders for this dangerous decision that gave terrorists a five-week head start to cover their tracks."

Hoekstra said that Brennan told him the bomber was in custody and that "we're trying to get as much information as we can. We'll keep you posted." No legal strategy was discussed.

Boehner, according to spokesman Kevin Smith, got a call on his unsecured cellphone that was short and "only informed Boehner that . . . Abdulmutallab was in custody." Boehner added that Brennan and the administration "should focus on fixing the near-catastrophic intelligence breakdown that failed to prevent this attack."
Marc Theissen shines light on Brennan's lie at the Corner:
Brennan claimed that he spoke with four Republicans on Christmas night — Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Kit Bond, and Pete Hoekstra — and told them that Mr. Abdulmutallab “was in F.B.I. custody” and that they should have understood that “F.B.I. custody” meant reading Miranda rights in a civilian process. “None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point,” Brennan said.

The problem with Brennan’s claim?

As I point out in Courting Disaster, just a few months earlier, the Obama administration announced that its new FBI-led “High-Value Interrogation Group” (HIG) would not necessarily Mirandize suspects it was questioning.

In its story on the announcement, the Washington Post reported:

Interrogators will not necessarily read detainees their rights before questioning, instead making that decision on a case-by-case basis, officials said. . . . "It’s not going to, certainly, be automatic in any regard that they are going to be Mirandized," one official said, referring to the practice of reading defendants their rights. "Nor will it be automatic that they are not Mirandized."
In other words, Republicans were assured by the Obama administration that the decision on reading Miranda rights to captured terrorists would be made a on “case-by-case” basis.

So if Brennan is wondering why the Republicans he spoke with did not just assume Abdumutallab would be automatically Mirandized, it is because the Obama administration told them so.

Of course, the HIG was not interrogating Abdulmutallab because — despite all the fanfare with its announcement — it had not yet been stood up. But how were Republicans to know that? Especially since Obama’s own director of national intelligence didn’t know that either?
Michael Isikoff remarks on the Declassified blog at Newsweek:
While national-security aides─like Richard Clarke after 9/11─have been used in the past to rebut political attacks by providing "background" briefings, and Brennan himself did the Sunday talk-show circuit immediately after the Christmas Day bombing─it is extremely rare for a White House aide in his position to so directly target the president's critics, much less members of Congress by name, according to several former White House staffers and congressional staffers.
It is disturbing that Obama has dispatched his top advisors on matters of national security to play attack dog against his political critics.

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