Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Definitively Ambiguous Gray Area

It seems we made a mistake in treating Umar Farouk Abdulmutalib like the criminal he is suspected of being. (There's an article about this in today's print edition of the Spokesman Review but I can't find it online.)

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair on Wednesday criticized the decision by FBI agents last month to question the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect as a criminal and not interrogate him as a terrorist.


When Mr. Blair was asked more directly whether he agreed with the decision to put Mr. Abdulmutallab on trial, he declined to answer.

The gist of both articles is that Abdulmutalib should not have been advised of his rights and allowed to get an attorney and should have been questioned by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group who are permitted to use more extensive interrogation techniques than the simple--and yet most effective--tools available to law enforcement.

And this is where we as a country have a problem. Treating terrorists as the criminals they are works. Yes they can get a lawyer, but if we have the evidence to prove their crime, so what? We've successfully prosecuted and sentenced many of them.

Treating them as a vaguely defined participant in a vaguely defined war is and has been very troublesome. Guantanamo is an easy example of that. There are rules for war that we're supposed to abide by, some of which are known as the Geneva Convention. We've created a new definition of war that doesn't fit the rules we claim to abide by which apparently allows us to act in any manner we see fit.

Put the shoe on the other foot and ask ourselves how we would react if one of our CIA agents in Afghanistan was captured and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. The hue and cry about inhumane treatment and unconscionable behavior would be deafening. How dare they?


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