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Justice Dept. Fires Back As Tension Mounts With Office of National Intelligence

Fingerpointing: A favorite sport in Washington

Fingerpointing: A favorite sport in Washington

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Let the fun begin.

The Justice Department is firing back as tension between the agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence seems to be on the rise.

On Wednesday, Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told a Congressional committee that he was never consulted before the FBI decided to interrogate the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and charge him in a civilian court instead of a military one. He also said the bomber should have been interrogated by a new special unit, even though he forgot to mention the unit was not yet operational.

The Obama administration was reportedly furious over the remarks, and Thursday said Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. had made the determination to try the underwear bomber as a civilian.

Also on Thursday, Justice Department’s chief spokesman Matthew Miller issued a statement that said:

“Since September 11, 2001, every terrorism suspect apprehended in the United States by either the Bush administration or the Obama administration has been initially arrested, held or charged under federal criminal law.

“Al Qaeda terrorists such as Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui and others have all been prosecuted in federal court, and the arrest and charging of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was handled no differently. Those who now argue that a different action should have been taken in this case were notably silent when dozens of terrorists were successfully prosecuted in federal court by the previous administration.

“In the hours immediately after Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to detonate an explosive device on board a Northwest Airlines flight, FBI agents who responded to the scene interrogated him and obtained intelligence that has already proved useful in the fight against Al Qaeda.

“It was only later that day, after the interrogation had already yielded intelligence, that he was read his Miranda rights. After the Department informed the President’s national security team about its planned course of action, Abdulmutallab was charged in criminal court.

“Trying Abdulmutallab in federal court does not prevent us from obtaining additional intelligence from him. He has already provided intelligence, and we will continue to work to gather intelligence from him, as the Department has done repeatedly in past cases. Most recently, David Headley, who has been indicted in Chicago for helping plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has given us information of enormous intelligence value. Furthermore, neither detaining Abdulmutallab under the laws of war or referring him for prosecution in military commissions would force him to divulge intelligence or necessarily prevent him from obtaining an attorney.

“The Department of Justice, working with the intelligence community and the President’s national security team, is committed to using every tool available to defeat terrorists and keep the American people safe. It will always be a top priority in these cases to obtain intelligence that can be used in the fight against Al Qaeda around the world. We will be pragmatic, not ideological, in that fight, and we will let results, not rhetoric, guide our actions.”


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