Trying Abdul Mutallab

January 5, 2010
National Review Online


The Washington Post published an editorial on New Year’s Eve on the supposed virtues of trying Abdul Mutallab in civilian court. I wrote the following letter in response. Since I have not heard anything in response and it has not been published by the Post, here it is:

Your December 31, 2009, editorial “Criminal or combatant?” in support of putting Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab into the criminal justice system points out that “[n]o one questioned” the prior administration’s prosecuting shoe bomber Richard Reid.  Reid’s terrorist act occurred in December 2001, only three months after September 11 when there was no military commission in place.  Thus, there was no alternative as there is today.  Also, there is now a precedent of trying a non-citizen terrorist, the legal farce of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who tied the court up for years before pleading guilty.  In claiming it is not necessary to question Abdulmutallab because he has already “been talking,” the Post does not understand the process of interrogation.  As anyone who has needed to get information from a person knows, the process is like peeling an onion.  One never gets all the information in the beginning. It takes weeks and months to ask, get a response, verify, and return with more questions.

Victoria Toensing, Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice (1984-88)

I wrote more on interrogating Abdul Mutallab in the Wall Street Journal last week, here.





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