The Corner

Josh Marshall Strikes Out

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall is hard at work exposing his ignorance. He’s got three posts up that attempt to rebut mine here on the Corner regarding the Obama administration’s decision to read Abdulmutallab his rights and give him a lawyer — thus ending his cooperation with investigators.

Where to begin? My post responded to critics who claim Obama is just doing to Abdulmutallab what Bush did to shoe bomber Richard Reid. I pointed out that Reid was captured a few months after 9/11, when we did not know all our options, and explained that the better comparison is Jose Padilla — who was captured in Chicago on a mission from KSM to blow up apartment buildings, designated an enemy combatant, sent to the Charleston brig, and interrogated.

Gotcha, says Josh, pointing out that “President Bush okayed military tribunals a month before Reid tried to blow up the plane.” This is true — and irrelevant. The existence of this order does not prove his point. A decision had been made to create military commissions, but the complex policy questions about who would go to military commissions vs. civilian courts, how to handle detainees captured in the United States vs. those captured abroad, etc., had not been settled, and were not settled for some time. Josh clearly has no idea how this policy developed, or he would not make such ludicrous claims.

Josh claims that “the reason we handled Padilla that way [designating him an enemy combatant] was because we didn’t have clear evidence to try him in a civilian court.” Not so. First, “the reason we handled Padilla that way” is because our first priority was questioning him for intelligence, not prosecuting him for a crime. Second, we did have plenty of evidence against him. Much of it came from Abu Zubaydah, KSM, and others who were being held and questioned by the CIA. If Padilla had been tried in a civilian court, he would have attempted to call them as witnesses. At the time, we had a national-security imperative to keep them in CIA custody and not expose the existence of the CIA program or the information these terrorists had provided in civilian courts. This is part of the reason why Padilla was later charged with lesser crimes, and not his actual mission to blow up high-rise buildings.

Josh asks: “Why did we try all the other people arrested in terrorist plots after Padilla in civilian courts?” Answer:  We didn’t. We didn’t try Binyam Mohammed, who was Padilla’s partner and captured after him, in a civilian court — we sent him to Guantanamo. We arrested and charged Uzair Paracha in a New York federal court for his part in a KSM plot, but Saifullah Paracha (Uzair’s father) was arrested overseas and shipped to Gitmo even though he was working with Uzair and al-Qaeda in the same plot. Majid Khan, a onetime U.S. resident, was detained overseas, kept in black sites, and then eventually shipped to Gitmo. Khan was working with the Parachas on a post-9/11 plot in which Khan was going to sneak back into the U.S. and hit any number of targets, and he provided $50,000 to the terrorist Hambali for a plot to fly a plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Khan is still at Gitmo. Mohammed al-Kahtani was never tried in a federal court, even though his fingerprint matched the fingerprint of a would-be 9/11 hijacker who was turned away from the Orlando airport. Kahtani was and remains detained at Gitmo.

And it goes on.

But for all his posts, Josh fails to address the central question I raised in my first post: Why is the Obama administration telling Abdulmutallab that he has the “right to remain silent”? Why are they not interrogating him to find out what follow-on attacks may be coming? Is Josh okay with the decision to let this terrorist, who tried to kill hundreds of Americans, keep his secrets to himself? And will he stand up and defend that decision if another terrorist who trained with Abdulmutallab in Yemen succeeds in blowing up another plane?

All in all, pretty weak, Josh.

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