Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Take Full Responsibility--Sort Of

After weeks of public outrage (not to mention a blog on this site), someone has finally taken responsibility for the idiotic decision to provide civil trials for terrorists, and more specifically, to Mirandize the Christmas underwear bomber. At long last we have an official announcement. Attorney General Eric Holder took full responsibility. Or did he?

In a formal letter addressing the pants-on-fire Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab affair, Holder responded to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell's demand to know who made the decision. In the letter, Holder takes responsibility, and proceeds to justify the idiocy and blame everybody and everything except himself for the "necessity of his having to make the decision." During this written song and dance routine, Holder points the finger at the real culprit--"The Process." Holder is spinning, spinning, spinning--spinning like a spinning top.

Already smarting from the reaction to the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Muhammed in New York City and having his butt handed to him, Holder still manages to take "credit" for that decision as well as that of the Christmas bomber, while continuing to support civilian trials for terrorists and claiming that his action incomprehensibly led Abdulutallab to continue talking, after a brief hiatus for Miranda of course. If this is "taking responsibility," I'd hate to see "deflecting criticism."

Holder's admission is a refreshing change from the usual stonewalling from the Obamists, but as one delves into it, it seems much more apoplexy than apologia. "I made the decision, and here's why it's not my fault." Or words to that effect. As to Abdulmutallab, he actually says (and I'm not kidding you here), "the criminal-justice system has been vindicated because the terrorist is talking again." No mention of any special deals or transportation of the suspect's family to the interrogation room at the public's expense which had to be done to get him to start talking again.

There's one small flaw in Holder's logic (I'm addressing only the logic, not the outright lies). It merely repeats, in sugar-coated form, the ongoing illogic of the Obama administration's position on treating foreign terrorists as if they were simple American criminal-citizens. So the assumption is that there is no war, and then follows it down that primrose path by eliminating the commander-in-chief as a responsible party in the decision-making process. Who needs a commander-in-chief when dealing with civilian criminals?

So according to Holder, even if he did make the decision to Mirandize, it would have been made anyway (by whom, God only knows). Here's the explanation from the great legal scholar: "When an arrest happens (happens?), government officials automatically employ long-established and publicly-known policies and practices." Get it? It doesn't matter what the act is, or the status of the person committing it, or where it happens, the procedure is automatically the same. Even though it's a foreign passenger, on a plane still in the air, arriving from Copenhagen on a watch-list after a sojourn in Yemen, with an incendiary/explosive device in his pants, "Miranda warnings are given, lawyers are interposed, charges are filed, and trials are conducted." Notice the use of the passive voice. None of these things are actually decided-upon by human beings, nor does anyone actually do them. They just kinda happen.

Holder relies for his defense on the notion that procedures have eliminated the need for anyone of any importance to make a decision. Once there's a procedure, everything else just "happens." And those procedures must always be followed. Says who? FDR certainly didn't follow them in the Nazi saboteur cases (and some of them were actually American citizens). In each of the many terrorist cases currently in limbo, many are not going to go to civilian trials, and many will result in indeterminate detention without any trial at all. Somebody has to make those decisions, because there is more than one type of case, and there is more than one type of procedure. Blaming "procedure" is the coward's way out.

Holder claims that the FBI followed its standard protocols in the Abdulmutallab matter. No kidding? What else were they expected to do, since somebody made a decision awhile back that this is the standard protocol. The FBI didn't make that decision. Someone, somewhere in the Obama administration made that decision, and the FBI followed it. He also claims that nobody in any other agency objected to his decision on Abdulmutallab. We have only his word for that, and as I pointed out in the earlier post, it is clear that the Department of Defense wasn't consulted at all.

No matter how much Holder would like you to believe that his non-decision decision was his alone, sole executive power resides in one man only--the president. Nice head-fake, Holder, but I'm not buying it. He then goes on to say, boldly, that his decision follows the exact same procedure as every prior administration, without a single exception. Two words, Mr. Attorney General--Jose Padilla--who was an American citizen, designated an enemy combatant, and held without trial after being arrested within the United States. Ditto for one Ali al-Marri, although he wasn't an American citizen.

Holder denies a fact, then proceeds to prove that he is himself wrong. Later in the letter, Holder mentions both the Padilla and al-Marri exceptions (which two paragraphs earlier didn't exist) then says that he is right once again because they did ultimately get civilian trials. True enough, mon general, but only after more than a year of unimpeded, un-Mirandized interrogation. So Holder goes on to defend his decision once again by saying that the Second Circuit Court of Appeal invalidated the unlawful detention of the two terrorists. Did you forget to mention something, Mr. Holder? The Supreme Court reversed the Second Circuit, and held the year-long detention and interrogation to be constitutionally permissible. It's bad form to lie by omission.

Holder devotes considerable space to precedent, but ignores a simple fact. Precedent in the courts or the Congress exists tangentially to the precedent set by the president acting upon his own executive powers. Obama loves civilian trials for terrorists, therefore Holder loves civilian trials for terrorists, therefore a new precedent has been established. Funny how precedent takes on a different meaning depending on whose precedent you're defending or attacking.

In addition, several material witnesses and suspected terrorists have been provided lawyers and the opportunity to refuse to answer questions, but that is not in any way required, as even the liberal Judge Mukasey stated in the Padilla matter. Babbling on about how "the widespread experience of law enforcement agencies including the FBI is that many defendants will talk and cooperate after receiving Miranda warnings, he fails to mention that a great many more clam up, and stay that way, absent incentives such as those mentioned above in the Abdulmutallab matter. And it still doesn't explain why it is necessary to follow Miranda in the first place, unless it's already an administration policy. Even if a number of arrested terrorists do talk eventually even after Miranda warnings, does it not occur to Holder that time is of the essence, and information on pending terrorist attacks could very well reveal attacks which are merely hours away? A one-day delay could be one day too many. This delay lasted nearly five weeks.

It is also interesting that after a year of campaigning followed by a year in office during which Obama attacked the inconsistencies in terror arrests and prosecutions of the prior administration, Holder is suddenly caught citing Bush-era decisions as precedent for his own actions. Even Holder's agonized late decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab is a half-truth. His actual decision on the matter was already foretold by his administration's policies and procedures, and the FBI had no choice but to make the decision on the spot according to the Holder-Obama rules. They were obligated to Mirandize Abdulmutallab with or without the Attorney General's direct order. Not as an outgrowth of either prevailing law or the Constitution, but rather as an outgrowth of Obama policy.

Now, in order to justify their inaction, bad decision-making, and failure to protect national security, the Obama administration is attempting to prove the efficacy of their agenda by informing the public that Abdumutallab is talking again. Not only that, they're giving us hints at what he's telling the interrogators. Why not cut out the middle man and send the information straight to Al Qaeda? By mentioning that Abdulmutallab has connections with Al Qaeda and is providing information, the administration is sending a message to the enemy: Close your cells, delete all e-mails, move your leaders and the terrorist camps, hustle your imams and cadre leaders out of their current locations (such as Yemen?) and re-group knowing that panty-boy is revealing your secrets. Discovering secret enemy plans does no good if the enemy has been forewarned to change all those plans.

Here's my assessment. Holder actually admitted to nothing and took responsibility for nothing. He just danced, figuratively I assume. So let's mix a couple of metaphors. When the rubber meets the road, the buck merely rests momentarily on the Attorney General's shoulders. It eventually, invevitably, and by design stops "here" (picture Harry Truman's desk at the White House). No policies, no procedures, and no phony precedents can alter that fact.


AndrewPrice said...

It doesn't surprise me that he gave a non-apology apology because that's the way the modern world works. No politician ever accepts responsibility in this day and age.

As for the bombing, I think mistakes were made but (1) I think it is more important to fix the problems than it is to assign blame and (2) I don't think any process can keep a determined terrorist of an airplane. That's a fact of life and all the talk about full body scanners and making people sit in their seats is just an attempt to placate the public. The fact is that as long as people want to blow things up, they'll find a way.

MegaTroll said...

Holder's been a disaster from day one. Still the real blame lies with Obama. I don't believe that Holder does anything Obama doesn't want him to do.

Writer X said...

Another non-apology apology. He and President Obama are masters at it. Unfortunately, I don't think Obama can hide behind Holder on this one. I think most people paying attention realize the damage this has caused and will inevitably cause in the future in terms of future terrorist acts. But I'm not sure they care.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X and Mega, I think you're both absolutely right that no matter what Holder does, it all reflects on the guy in charge.

Not only do people no longer let politicians pass the buck to their underlings anymore, but we've become so fixated on the President that we give them credit/blame for things they rarely ever have any power over (like economic growth).

Unknown said...

Andrew: I'm not so willing to forgive "the modern world" politicians. And it is important to determine who is responsible for this fiasco in order to determine who will continue to make the decisions.

Nor do I think that every bomber who wants to commit an act will succeed if security and intelligence procedures are honed to their best levels. The Israelis have done a very good job. Of course we can't prevent all such attacks, but we can prevent a lot of them with proper information and advanced warning. We know of multiple incidents that would have turned into mass murder if we hadn't gotten information from detained terrorists. If we can't stop all of the attacks, isn't preventing most of them still desirable?

The Holder-Obama agenda seems to be to continue to treat terrorist sources of information as criminal defendants with Miranda rights and the right to civilian trials. That guarantees that the possibility of future attacks goes up. Thus, the problem will get fixed only when they are run out of office.

Giving up on sound military interrogation techniques and foreign terrorist interrogations because "no process can keep a determined terrorist off an airplane" is just far too fatalistic for my tastes.

We haven't suffered a successful attack since 9-11, but there have been plenty of plots which would have succeeded if the former tough policies of interrogation had not been followed. Khalid Sheikh Muhammed himself sang like a bird and revealed several future plans for attack that were ultimately thwarted.

Which politicians get "tagged" by the other politicians is of little import to me. Who is really responsible does matter to me, and finding "who's to blame" is not an insignificant thing. As my article indicates, I lay that blame directly at the feet of the man in the White House.

Unknown said...

MegaTroll: I very much agree. But even at that, this out-of-control and leaderless administration still leaves too much to chance and the whim of "social experiment" amateurs who will make decisions based on what they think Obama wants, since nobody can really be entirely sure what this chameleon of a president actually wants, or even understands.

Unknown said...

WriterX: Your comment reinforces the others, and my personal view as well. The buck really stops at the President's desk, as I strongly indicated in the final paragraph of the article.

If we can keep the pressure on the people who appear to be in charge, and turn over enough rocks fully and publicly, we will eventually expose the snake who is really the prime mover.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Though I agree with you and WriterX, I still believe it is important to push the upper administration-level department heads in order to continue to expose the ultimate culprit behind the incompetence--the president. There are still many undecided voters out there who truly believe Obama is a messiah who is being betrayed or misled by "bad company." That must be hammered at, and clarified for the public.

The president is not God, so he can't control everything. But for some things, he has direct responsibility, assigned to him by the Constitution. National security is one of those, and I'm not willing for one minute to say that the president is free to argue that national security is beyond his control. He can't fix everything, but he can sure as hell fix nearly all of it, particularly in matters such as the ones discussed within the article.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--It's pretty obvious that the decision-making goes all the way to the top of the administration food chain. But it does seem that at least some top department heads (like Holder) are the ones that lower-level people have to get their guidance from. That's why I agree that if Holder were to end up under Obama's bus, the policies wouldn't change, and it would eventually become apparent to those who haven't already figured it out that Obama is behind it all.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: That is the nature of bureaucracies, the military, governments and businesses. Chain-of-command keeps things in order, but is occasionally the stumbling-block that causes everything to go sour. There had to be many FBI and CIA personnel who would love to have gone directly to the president to protest, and it would have been the end of their careers. It may be Obama's policy, but Holder is in charge of enforcing it, and anyone bold enough to go "over his head" would end up at our mission in Outer Freedonia or looking for a new career.

Unknown said...

Not only does the buck stop at the President's desk, it's now worth about eight cents.

Unknown said...

CalFed: Ain't that the truth?! And worse than that, Obama is so busy flitting all over the place making speeches and distorting facts that he won't even see the eight-cent dollar on his desk.

John Byrnes said...

the level where their goal is to give up their life for a cause, their body looses animation and we see the “thousand-yard stare.” But it is more than this, the whole body and behavior looses animation and this is how we can identify them. The problem is that security and law enforcement are still looking for the Primal Aggressor (red-faced and ready to explode). Of course they are finding it difficult to detect these terrorist; a terrorist is a Cognitive Aggression; they are looking for the wrong person!

As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

You can

Unknown said...

JohnB: That approach is vastly superior to machines that work about half the time, with operators who are half-asleep. Human observation is the primary tool of the anti-terrorist. While our "security" people are looking for the "primal aggressor" and watching the street-theater of Muslim groups putting on an Allahu Akhbar demonstration, they're not watching the decently-dressed guy with the bomb who is calmly passing through the line.

Indeed, Al Qaeda is already modifying its tactics, moving its personnel and planning the next attack.

Unknown said...

This morning's news (Monday) has Democrats claiming that the Republican leadership was fully-informed of the AG's decision and approved. Not the case, apparently, since Hoekstra (and McConnell soon) say that they were merely told that the suspect was being interrogated and that the FBI was involved. No mention whatsoever of Miranda or civilian trials. In other words, it was just a courtesy call to inform them that an investigation was underway.

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