An intelligence scandal....
Dennis Blair, head of US intelligence, was not even informed that the Christmas-day terrorist would be treated as a civilian...
In a tacit admission that the U.S. squandered a chance to gain valuable information after the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing, the nation's intelligence director testified Wednesday that authorities had been too quick to read the suspect his Miranda rights and grant him access to an attorney.
Dennis C. Blair said that a newly created team of elite interrogators should have been called in to question Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and that top officials in Washington should have been consulted. The director of national intelligence also acknowledged that there had been a number of blunders in the handling of intelligence data that prevented authorities from stopping the incident.
Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, is accused of attempting to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Blair said that the interrogation group "was created exactly for this purpose. . . . We did not invoke [its use] in this case. We should have."
Blair attributed the breakdown in part to a failure last year among those who set up the unit to envision scenarios in which the team might be used to question someone captured in the United States.
"Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people," Blair said. "And, duh. . . . The decision was made on the scene." Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said it was a costly mistake.
"We know that those interrogations can provide critical intelligence," she said. "But the protections afforded by our civil justice system . . . encourage terrorists to lawyer up. I'm told that with Abdulmutallab, once he was 'Mirandized' and received civilian lawyers . . . he stopped answering questions."
Collins and other lawmakers also questioned the decision to try Abdulmutallab in a civilian court rather than move him into military custody to face a tribunal. Abdulmutallab has pleaded not guilty to various charges in federal court in Detroit.