Saturday, January 23, 2010

Who’s on First?

Abbot and Costello could do better on National Security!

August 2009 – Press Briefing to Announce “High Value Detainee Interrogation Unit”

"Washington — In an effort to gain more intelligence through “scientifically proven means,” the Obama administration has created a “high-value interrogation group” with responsibility for interrogating key detainees who are believed to have useful information on violent extremist groups, a White House spokesman says.

“White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters August 24 that the new group, which President Obama created after receiving the consensus recommendation of an interagency task force, will be housed at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“It will bring together all the different elements of the intelligence community to get the best intelligence possible based on scientifically proven methods and consistent with the Army Field Manual,” Burton said in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where the president is vacationing.

“This is a way that the intelligence community can best operate, especially in these high-value instances,” he said.”

Deputy press secretary Burton said President Obama signed an executive order to establish an interagency interrogation task force to “find new methods by which we can get more intelligence by scientifically proven means.”

The high-value interrogation group will house people from different elements of the intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “It houses all these different elements under one group where they can best perform their duties,” Burton said.

The president “has full confidence in this plan, and he's going to continue to support it going forward,” he said.

I am positive that Burton actually said that the “new group has been created” vs. in the process of creation. It is hard to ascertain on August 24 because the article at the above link has conflicting information such as in the paragraph above where it states “the interrogation group will house” (which the word “will” implies something in the future) and ends the next sentence with “It houses all these different elements” (which the word “it” implies something currently exists).

Ok, let’s give Obama a break here and say that Burton misspoke and that the new group is currently being formed and will be operational sometime in the future, which appears to be the case as the Dept. of Justice announcement of the program on their site.

On November 5th, less than two months after Obama announced the creation of the HIG the worst terror attack on US soil since 9/11 occurred. One would think that the operational capability would be rushed into place given this fact. Not to be.

On December 24, another attack was foiled when the underwear bomber lit his genitalia on fire instead of exploding the bomb that would have killed 300 innocents.

Surely, the group would be in place to interrogate Mutallab right? Wrong.

In fact, Dennis Blair in Congressional testimony had this to say:

“Dennis Blair testified before Congress that Abdulmutallab should have been questioned by the HIG. He also stated that he was not consulted about this matter and that other important intelligence officials were not consulted either.

The notion that the FBI would interrogate a high value detainee like Abdulmutallab, rather than having the interrogation handled by a special group set up expressly for that purpose, is shocking -- so shocking that Blair slapped his head when he tesitifed about the HIG's lack of involvement. What is the purpose of a "High Value Detainee Interrogation Group" if not to question, or at least play a role in the handling, of a guy sent into the country by an emerging branch of al Qaeda with explosives in his underwear?

Blair's testimony seemed too bad to be true, and that turned out to be the case. But not because the HIG did, in fact, interrogate Abdulmutallab; rather, because the HIG does not actually exist as an operational entity.

Blair made this clear in what must rank as the among the most embarrassing "clarificatons" of congressional testimony ever. Blair was forced to amend his testimony to say that the FBI questioned Abdulmutallab using its "expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational" (emphasis added). – Powerline

According to the testimony by Blair to Congress on the matter:

The nation's intelligence chief said the man accused of trying to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation team instead of being handled as an ordinary criminal suspect.

Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday that officials botched the handling of terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of working with a Yemen-based offshoot of al Qaeda to try to bring down the Detroit-bound jet carrying 290 passengers and crew.

A new panel charged with designating so-called high-value terrorism suspects for special interrogations should have been used in the case and the suspect should have been questioned by an elite group of interrogators, said Mr. Blair, who used the expression "duh" to emphasize his point.

Then, in a turnabout later in the day when testimony resumed Blair made the following “clarification” to his earlier testimony:

Later in the day, Mr. Blair issued a statement saying his comments were "misconstrued." "The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody," his statement said. "They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI's expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational," he said, referring to the High-Value Interrogation Group.

There it is – the HIG is still not operational!

So, does anyone else feel safer now that Obama has put an end to “enhanced interrogations” to show how humane and just America is?

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