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Lies or Sematics?

A must-read post by Michael Isikoff on the testimony of Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, regarding what they knew about the plan to charge Abdulmutallab in civilian court. An excerpt:

But some officials (who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue) said those responses to the panel may have been misleading and glossed over the extent to which all the relevant national-security agencies, including top aides to Blair and Napolitano, were fully informed about the plans to charge the suspect in federal court hours before he was read his Miranda rights and stopped cooperating.

A key event was a 5 p.m. secure videoconference call on Christmas Day that included Leiter, who reports to Blair, and presided over by John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser. Also on the call was Jane Lute, the deputy secretary of homeland security and Napolitano’s No. 2.

During that conference call, a Justice Department lawyer briefed the group about the questioning of Abdulmutallab and the plans to file a criminal complaint against him the next day, Dec. 26.

Neither Leiter nor any of the other participants, including representatives from the FBI and the CIA, raised any questions about the Justice Department’s plans to charge the suspect in federal court, the officials said.  “If you participate in a conference call and you don’t raise any objections, that suggests you were consulted,” said one senior law-enforcement official. Another added that “nobody at any point” raised any objections, either during the meeting or during a four-hour period afterward when Abdulmutallab was informed of his Miranda rights to be represented by a lawyer.

Asked about the apparent discrepancy, a DHS official said, “There is a difference between being informed and being consulted. We were informed of the decision that had been made. Nobody from DHS was consulted.” A spokesman for Leiter declined to make any comment. An official in Blair’s director of national intelligence office (who also asked not to be identified) said, “This is a mischaracterization of the events as we understand them. The director stands by his statements.”

“By the time of the 5 p.m. conference call, it was a fait accompli” that Abdulmutallab was going to be charged in criminal court, a U.S. intelligence official said when asked to explain how Blair and Leiter could have said they were not consulted about the decision.

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