The have been numerous reports lately concerning Al Qaeda activity in Yemen. The U.S. has stepped up aid to the Yemeni government, and has even been conducting military strikes in the country. We, and the British, just closed our embassy there because of "security threats." The overall situation in Yemen is not good, and apparently worsening daily. Given all that, we clearly have a critical need for intelligence relating to terrorist activities tied to that country.
The failed Christmas bombing left Omar Abdulmutalla in U.S. custody. This terrorist supposedly has ties to Al Qaeda in Yemen, and may even have trained there. We don't know how much he knows. It's possible that he knows very little, and was just a ignorant, fanatical tool. But it is also possible that he could have significant information. Even seemingly minor details might give us useful advantages in our expanding operations against Al Qaeda in Yemen. So what did we do?
We voluntarily chose to treat Abdulmutalla as a criminal, and provided him with completely undeserved rights, and access to legal representation, as if he were a U.S. citizen -- not a terrorist linked to an organization at war with the United States. Now, in order to gain information, we are reduced to trying to make a deal. Here's Obama advisor John Brennan on whether the terrorist will cooperate in return for "incentives,"
"He doesn't have to but he knows there are certain things that are on the table... if he wants to engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways he can do that."The reason he doesn't have to make a deal, or tell us anything, as Brennan points out, is because the administration stupidly decided to treat him as if he were the same as a U.S. citizen. Maybe he'll make a deal and give us useful information. Or maybe he'll feed us a pack of lies. Or maybe he just doesn't know anything. But he could just choose to say nothing at all. And there's no reason he should have that option in the first place.
This is yet another example of how granting foreign terrorists the rights of a U.S. citizen puts a straightjacket on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts. And for nothing. We penalize ourselves, degrade U.S. constitutional rights by extending them to those undeserving of them, and we gain nothing. If Abdulmutallah chooses not to talk, and sticks to that decision resolutely, there is nothing we can do. We just have to accept it. Assuming he has any useful information, could we force it out of him? Maybe, maybe not. But we've stupidly denied ourselves even the option to try.