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February 08, 2010

Obama's Director Of National Intelligence Deputy National Security Adviser*: A Christmas Night Phone Call Is Like A Wedding, Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan doesn't like that Republicans are attacking the administration for giving the Christmas Day bomber full Miranda rights. Yesterday he pushed back by saying he talked to 4 top congressional Republicans the night of the attack and none of them complained about it.

Problem is (and there's always a problem with the story of this gang) that by Brennan's own admission he didn't say anything about Mirandizing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

"On Christmas night, I called a number of senior members of Congress," Brennan said on NBC, specifically identifying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as the ranking Republicans on the Senate and House intelligence committees, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.

"I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point," Brennan said. "They knew that 'in FBI custody' means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point. They didn't say, 'Is he going into military custody?' 'Is he going to be Mirandized?'"

So according to Brennan, a courtesy call on Christmas night is the one and only chance these four had to speak up. It was incumbent upon them to realize that 'FBI custody' meant 'Full legal rights' and that since they didn't instantly make that connection, they just need to shut the hell up now and forever.

Aside from the ridiculousness of that theory, it's just plain wrong. Writing at The Corner, Marc Thiessen demonstrates there was no reason for anyone to believe "FBI custody" automatically meant full Miranda rights because the Obama administration said it wouldn't.

just a few months earlier, the Obama administration announced that its new FBI-led “High-Value Interrogation Group” (HIG) would not necessarily Mirandize suspects it was questioning.

In its story on the announcement, the Washington Post reported:

Interrogators will not necessarily read detainees their rights before questioning, instead making that decision on a case-by-case basis, officials said. . . . "It’s not going to, certainly, be automatic in any regard that they are going to be Mirandized," one official said, referring to the practice of reading defendants their rights. "Nor will it be automatic that they are not Mirandized."

In other words, Republicans were assured by the Obama administration that the decision on reading Miranda rights to captured terrorists would be made a on “case-by-case” basis.

You remember the HIG, don't you? First Director of National Intelligence Blair told a Senate panel that it should have been activated in this case but then later that night he had to release a statement admitting the team was not operational.

I'd love to ask Brennan that even if we took his reasoning as sound (which no one possibly can) what difference would it have made if they complained then? It's not like you can un-Mirandize a suspect. The criticisms of the law enforcement approach came out in the course of oversight hearings and a national debate on this administration's approach to these matters. The idea that 4 congressional leaders not bringing this up on the spot somehow preempts this debate for everyone else is simply idiotic.

I just wanted to get that on the record lest Brennan tell me I had my chance and by passing it up, I forfeited any right to ever critique him again.

*I confused Brennan with DNI Blair in the original post. I've changed the headline and the references from Blair to Brennan in the body. I also removed a paragraph about Blair and his Navy service since it's no longer applicable.

Thanks to notropis for spotting the error. My apologies to all for the mistake.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:59 AM

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