Last Friday, Florida’s U.S. Senator George LeMieux joined 21 other Republican colleagues in sending a strongly worded letter addressed to President Obama slamming the administration’s decision to try the ‘Fruit-of-Kaboom’ bomber in civilian court.
LeMieux’s office issued a press release condemning the decision to try 23 year-old Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the Federal District Court system. Instead, the letter urged Obama to reconsider his decision and hold Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant and have him tried by military commission, rather than as a common criminal.
The five-page letter from the Senators argues that by trying the al-Qaeda operative in a civilian court the government loses the ability to interrogate him about the identities of other terrorists who assisted him, the source of the money and explosives, his awareness of other plots and operatives, as well as other intelligence that can help protect Americans against further attacks. The Senators criticize the fact that, under the administration’s decision on Abdulmutallab, the only leverage available to the government to secure his cooperation is the offer of a lenient plea agreement. Given the fact that actionable intelligence has a very brief life span, it is highly unlikely that the young terrorist could provide anything other than historical information at this time. The letter addresses this point directly:
“Gathering intelligence from all sources, including those whom we capture, that will lead us to other unknown terrorists is vital to eliminating al-Qaeda. Under your Constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, along with the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (P.L. 107-40) you have the authority – and, we believe, the responsibility – to detain Abdulmutallab because of his actions on behalf of al-Qaeda and associated groups. Had you ordered Abdulmutallab to be detained under this authority rather than criminally prosecuted, the Intelligence Community would have had a clear opportunity to collect intelligence from him, potentially leading to the discovery of other unknown terrorists before they, too, attempt to attack our nation or allies.”
The Obama administration has often argued the importance of setting an example of American fair treatment of detainees for the rest of the world. To this end, it has ordered the prosecution of key terrorists in civilian courts and made a stumbling attempt at closing the detention facility at Gitmo. However, Obama’s policy of placing world opinion and terrorist rights ahead of the safety and security of the American people does not appear to coincide with domestic public opinion. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 58% of Americans favor using enhanced interrogation procedures – including waterboarding – on Abdulmutallab in order to extract information from him. The existence of such a chasm between administration policy and public sentiment on the issue of security from terror attacks highlights the vulnerability of the President in his role as commander-in-chief.
(Above right: Sen. George LeMieux, AP photo Phil Coale).
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Text of letter to Obama