- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Obama administration is accusing Republicans of enabling Islamic terrorism. The White House has sent out John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, to defend its mishandling of the failed Christmas Day bomber.

“Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al Qaeda,” Mr. Brennan wrote in a recent USA Today Op-Ed column. “Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill.”

Mr. Brennan is trying desperately to divert attention from the real issue: The administration is more concerned with giving terrorists legal rights than protecting Americans. The decisions to have Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) tried in civilian court and Christmas bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab read his Miranda rights reveal Mr. Obama’s lack of seriousness in fighting global jihadists

Instead of changing course, the White House is digging in its heels - to the point of claiming it is following the anti-terror policies of the Bush administration. For years, liberals demonized President George W. Bush as America’s “Hitler,” a war criminal who led a unilateralist, militaristic regime that launched an immoral war in Iraq and sanctioned torture. That was yesterday. Mr. Bush has now become the model for treating terrorists captured on U.S. soil.

Mr. Obama told Katie Couric in an interview that “we’re not handling any of these cases any different than the Bush administration handled them all through 9/11.”

Mr. Obama emphasized that “190 folks” had been tried and convicted in civilian court during Mr. Bush’s years in office - including shoe bomber Richard Reid. Yet Reid was captured when the post-Sept. 11, 2001, military tribunal system was still not set up. He also pleaded guilty - unlike KSM, who vows to turn the courtroom into a media platform for his anti-American hatred. The victims’ families will be subjected to months, if not years, of emotional anguish as KSM showboats in front of the Muslim world.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. thinks that trying KSM several blocks from ground zero is a brilliant move. It isn’t. It only invites more terrorist attacks upon New York. This is why Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (among many others) opposes it.

Moreover, almost all of the “190 folks” tried by the Bush administration were small fish: low-level terrorist supporters who had provided material aid to the enemy. To equate those cases with that of KSM, the man responsible for the greatest mass atrocity on American soil, is not only legally untenable but morally grotesque.

Contrary to Mr. Brennan’s claims, it is the White House - not its critics - who are playing politics with national security. The administration is trapped by its own radical leftist values. Mr. Obama is determined to try all terrorists in civilian courts, even though that undermines effectively waging the war on terror. Mr. Obama cannot have it both ways: Appeasing jihadists comes at the expense of keeping Americans safe. Lashing out at Republicans won’t alter this reality.

The White House is engaged in a cover-up. The Justice Department mishandled the initial interrogation of Mr. Abdulmutallab. Even though he warned that “more attacks are coming” and that he was part of a wider al Qaeda plot based in Yemen to strike the U.S., the suspected underwear bomber was allowed to lawyer up after just 50 minutes of questioning by investigators.

Mr. Holder ordered that Mr. Abdulmutallab be classified as a criminal defendant and given the right to remain silent, which he immediately did. He is not, however, some violent thug. He is an enemy combatant (and a foreigner). Hence, he is not entitled - nor should he be - to U.S. constitutional protections.

The foiled Christmas bombing was more than a crime. It was an act of war against America by global jihadism. Rather than treating it as such, the administration is determined to embrace a law enforcement approach - regardless of the consequences. The result is that actionable intelligence has been lost.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs last month stated that 50 minutes was enough time for a thorough interrogation. He said the administration had attained “valuable intelligence.”

That begs the question: Why did the FBI need later to call in the suspected underwear bomber’s parents to help persuade him to break his silence? Mr. Holder recently admitted that Mr. Abdulmutallab “has provided additional intelligence to the FBI.” This means Mr. Gibbs’ account was false: The initial interrogation was not comprehensive. Rather, it was incomplete - and therefore botched. Mr. Abdulmutallab should not have been read his Miranda rights.

The several weeks of silence that ensued led not only to time being wasted. Leads have turned cold. Co-conspirators have dispersed. The funding trail has dried up. Training networks have relocated. In other words, Mr. Abdulmutallab’s fellow jihadists have gotten away to fight another day.

“We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war,” Mr. Brennan said.

He is wrong. From its inception, the Obama administration has done everything to give the impression we are not at war - Guantanamo is to be closed; CIA interrogators are being investigated for possible crimes; homegrown extremism, such as the Fort Hood shooting, is downplayed; U.S.-Muslim entente is celebrated; Iran is appeased; the Iraq war is routinely vilified; and the war in Afghanistan has been transformed into nation-building. Last year, Mr. Brennan boasted that the Bush policy of “global war” was being jettisoned.

Mr. Brennan is a CIA apparatchik. He is a typical Washington careerist - spineless, duplicitous and ruthlessly ambitious. He has no idea how to defeat Islamic radicalism.

Murderous terrorists have no business being in a civilian court. There is only one place for them: a military tribunal, followed by the hangman’s noose.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the daily radio host of the “Kuhner Show” on WTNT 570-AM (www.talk570.com) from noon until 3 p.m.

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