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White House to security critics: We are tough, just like Bush

As Republicans continue their unrelenting criticism of the Obama administration's national security measures, the White House points out similarities to the Bush era. But that raises Democrats' hackles.

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Interrogation of terror suspects: Republicans charge that the Department of Justice wasted critical moments after the Christmas Day bombing attempt when FBI interrogators told terrorist suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that he had a right to silence and to an attorney.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate and the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called the move “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”

White House officials, speaking on background, told reporters that Mr. Abdulmutallab’s family had been brought to Washington and persuaded him to respond to questions. He was talking, they said, so no harm was done by “Mirandizing” him. A timeline of events released by the White House Sunday shows that Abdulmutullab was read his rights nine hours after being taken into custody, and for much of that time, he was in surgery.

Abdulmutallab was charged in a criminal court on Dec. 26, a move that also signaled that the Justice Department was proceeding with an understanding that the suspect had the rights of a criminal defendant.

The GOP blow back has been unrelenting. On Feb. 10, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) of Michigan called for chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to resign, after Mr. Brennan said he had consulted with GOP leaders and top intelligence officials on the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant. Republican leaders say they received no details.

In a Feb. 3 letter to Senate Republicans, Mr. Holder wrote that the Bush administration used the criminal justice system to convict more than 300 people on terrorism-related charges, including attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid (who was also Mirandized). “Those policies and practices, which were not criticized when employed by previous administrations, have been and remain extremely effective in protecting national security,” he said.

Americans favor trying Abdul-mutallab in a military court, rather than a civilian one, by a margin of 57 to 42, according to a CNN poll.

Closing of Guántanamo: On Jan. 22, 2009, as one of his first official acts as president, Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facility that year. It had been a key campaign pledge to signal a new approach to counterterrorism, but turned out to be far more difficult to pull off. Challenges included repatriating detainees cleared for release, processing those held for trial in civilian courts or military tribunals, and relocating those to be held indefinitely.

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