Administration changes story on Christmas Day bomber
By: Byron York Washington Examiner
Chief Political Correspondent
02/03/10 7:57 AM EST
A number of news organizations are reporting that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the al Qaeda soldier accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet, is now cooperating with authorities and has provided useful intelligence to terrorist investigators.
The Washington Post, citing "Obama administration sources," reports Abdulmutallab "has been providing FBI interrogators with useful intelligence about his training and contacts since last week." The Politico quotes a "law enforcement source" saying Abdulmutallab has provided "useful, current intelligence." And ABC News, citing a "senior administration official," reports that the intelligence "has been disseminated throughout the intelligence community."
The reports represent a striking turnaround in the administration's position. Ever since the public learned that authorities had just 50 minutes to question Abdulmutallab before he was read his Miranda rights and refused to answer any further questions, the Obama administration has claimed that it had, during that brief interrogation, gotten all the information that was possible to be gained from Abdulmutallab. On Fox News Sunday January 24, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that "FBI interrogators believe they got valuable intelligence and were able to get all that they could out of him." When host Chris Wallace asked, "All they could?" Gibbs answered, "Yeah."
On January 31, top White House adviser David Axelrod told Meet the Press that Abdulmutallab "has given very valuable information to the government about activities in Yemen and some of his experiences there." To emphasize the point, Axelrod said, "We have not lost anything as a result of how his case has been handled."
So just a few days ago the Obama administration claimed that Abdulmutallab had given up everything he knows. Now, they claim he is giving them fresh, useful intelligence.
The administration's new position seems to be a direct response to bipartisan criticism of the handling of Abdulmutallab. Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill were appalled to learn that he had been questioned for just 50 minutes before being advised of his right to remain silent. The criticism started among Republicans but spread to some Democrats and threatened to spread further unless the administration addressed the issue in some way. So now comes the news that Abdulmutallab is talking again.
The news is being reported in a frankly political context. "The revelation could deflate recent Republican attacks against the Obama administration’s decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights," reports the Politico. The "senior administration official" who spoke to ABC News denounced "people with no experience and apparently less knowledge about the case and the issues involved" who "have made it a cause celebre." Other news organizations are reporting administration pushback stories as well, including reports that Abdulmutallab's treatment closely resembled that given by the Bush administration to shoe bomber Richard Reid. (Politico reports that that news "further undermined" GOP criticisms.)
But on the issue of Abdulmutallab and what he has told investigators, the question remains: Were Gibbs, Axelrod and the Obama White House telling the whole story when they said Abdulmutallab had told authorities all he knew?
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Administration-changes-story-on-Christmas-Day-bomber-83431262.html#ixzz0eYb4nv7J