Holder letter: why we read Christmas Day bomber his rights
In a letter to Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, Attorney General Eric Holder defended his decision to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant, not an enemy combatant.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday strongly defended his decision to treat alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant rather than turn him over to the US military as an enemy combatant.Skip to next paragraph
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In a five-page letter to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Holder took sole responsibility for the decision to keep Mr. Abdulmutallab within the criminal justice system. He also defended the decision to issue Miranda warnings to the suspect.
Senator McConnell and other Republicans have said that advising a terror suspect of his right to remain silent and consult a lawyer undercuts the ability to obtain critical intelligence information that might prevent a terror attack.
Holder rejected that notion. “The widespread experience of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, is that many defendants will talk and cooperate with law enforcement agents after being informed of their right to remain silent,” he wrote.
Rift over antiterror policies
Holder’s response is likely to turn up the heat in an intensifying confrontation between Republicans in Congress and the White House over the future direction of US antiterror policies.
He is not alone. A bipartisan group of senators is working on legislation that would block any federal funding for civilian trials in the US for 9/11 suspects.
On the Abdulmutallab case, Republicans said the failed Al Qaeda suicide bomber was questioned only for 50 minutes by FBI agents before being advised of his right to remain silent and consult a lawyer. After that, he reportedly stopped talking.
Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, among others, has said Abdulmutallab should have been treated as an enemy combatant rather than as an ordinary criminal, and interrogated about his training in Yemen and Al Qaeda contacts.
“The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the war on terror,” she said. “This administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them, fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day.”