John Brennan, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser, has become the point man for the administration’s pushback against all the Republican criticism related to how he is handling national security and terrorism specifically. This appears to a pretty darn smart move, cause Brennan does not seem suffer fools gladly.
This weekend on the Sunday talk shows Brennan was both forceful and persuasive. Now he has a brief, yet powerful op-ed in USA Today . It isn’t even 400 words, but Brennan’s pretty can still identify and then beat down all the BS Republican talking points.
Republicans insist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was interrogated for under an hour, during which time he provided nothing of value. The Obama administration, Republicans argue, should have coordinated with other agencies outside the Justice Department. Brennan explains:
Immediately after the failed Christmas Day attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was thoroughly interrogated and provided important information. Senior counterterrorism officials from the White House, the intelligence community and the military were all actively discussing this case before he was Mirandized and supported the decision to charge him in criminal court.
Republicans are also outraged that Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights, when he should have been labeled an enemy combatant and carted off to gosh knows where. Brennan explains:
The most important breakthrough occurred after Abdulmutallab was read his rights, which the FBI made standard policy under Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s attorney general. The critics who want the FBI to ignore this long-established practice also ignore the lessons we have learned in waging this war: Terrorists such as Jose Padilla and Saleh al-Mari did not cooperate when transferred to military custody, which can harden one’s determination to resist cooperation.
It’s naive to think that transferring Abdulmutallab to military custody would have caused an outpouring of information. There is little difference between military and civilian custody, other than an interrogator with a uniform. The suspect gets access to a lawyer, and interrogation rules are nearly identical.
Would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid was read his Miranda rights five minutes after being taken off a plane he tried to blow up. The same people who criticize the president today were silent back then.
Furthermore, Republicans also now seem to believe military courts are a far more effective place to try terrorism cases. Brennan explains:
Cries to try terrorists only in military courts lack foundation. There have been three convictions of terrorists in the military tribunal system since 9/11, and hundreds in the criminal justice system — including high-profile terrorists such as Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarius Moussaoui.
Republicans are also convinced the Obama administration isn’t being effective or nearly aggressive enough on counterterrorism activities. Brennan explains:
This administration’s efforts have disrupted dozens of terrorist plots against the homeland and been responsible for killing and capturing hundreds of hard-core terrorists, including senior leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond — far more than in 2008. We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war.
Finally Republicans seem to perceive terrorists as these Super Villains with Super Powers beyond mere mortals. Brennan explains:
Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill. They will, however, be dismantled and destroyed, by our military, our intelligence services and our law enforcement community. And the notion that America’s counterterrorism professionals and America’s system of justice are unable to handle these murderous miscreants is absurd.
That is what I call a blunt, focused, and flat-out beat down in just 389 words. Here is hoping we see and hear a lot more from Mr. Brennan. I think it is clear he is the most powerful advocate for Obama’s counterterrorism policies.