The Dangers We Face
It was bad enough that United States agents failed to take seriously the visit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s father, a prominent banker, to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to report his concerns about his own son’s associates and behavior. It was bad enough that spokesmen for the U.S.
It was bad enough that United States agents failed to take seriously the visit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s father, a prominent banker, to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to report his concerns about his own son’s associates and behavior. It was bad enough that spokesmen for the U.S. government later said the father’s concerns, “didn’t rise above the level of noise.” It was bad enough that after the attempt to blow an airliner out of the sky with more than 200 people aboard was thwarted only by the brave instinct of a passenger, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that all the security systems worked (a statement she was forced by public ridicule to recant). And it certainly was bad enough that the U.S. government moved first to its default position that Abdulmutallab was a lone actor, not a card-carrying member of a terrorist group.
And it was unfortunate that when President Obama finally made a public statement three days later, the best he could do was note that, “This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face” and “It’s absolutely critical that we learn from this incident.”
The danger we face is jihadist ideology which glorifies the killing of Americans and other Westerners, and what we should learn is that the “war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them” was not a figment of the previous administration’s imagination.
Because of the insistence of the Obama Administration that the dangers we face are simply individual criminal events, Abdulmutallab has been charged with a federal criminal complaint comprised of two civilian crimes-trying to destroy a plane in U.S. airspace, and bringing a “destructive device” on an aircraft. They are felonies, carrying penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. No mention of terrorism. According to some legal experts, these charges are “place keepers” to allow the government to detain Abdulmutallab while the investigation continues.
The implications, however, are immediate and grave.
Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson, interviewed right after Christmas said, “I’d like to first find out who recruited him. I’d like to find out where he got the explosives. I want to get the signature of the bomb, which is now being determined by forensic investigators at Quantico. I’d like to find out who sent him. How he was recruited. Those are all things they may find out, obviously, through the interrogation of him, plus a review of his cell phone records, his travel records, his computers, or laptop if they can retrieve it. Interviews with his colleagues, his friends, or whatever. And now a review of his national security records over the past year to see whether he actually came into the United States ahead of time, as they think he did, to do a reconnaissance mission to determine the feasibility of carrying out such an attack.”
We would want to know those things as well. But being charged in a U.S. court means that Abdulmutallab is now entitled to Constitutional protections, including the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. And we are sure that if Abulmutallab doesn’t know about those rights, his court appointed lawyer or the ACLU will surely tell him. How much we will learn from him under the circumstances is unclear.
We have already learned enough about the young men-from the United States, from Nigeria, from Pakistan-who adopt jihadist teachings as their religious touchstone to understand that it is a mistake to endow terrorists with the legal and constitutional rights of American citizens who violate civilian laws.
The United States and the West are at war and it is that of danger the President should consider himself to have been reminded-mercifully, without anyone being killed.