Friday, February 17, 2012

Conservatives Quiet After Saying Civilian System Couldn't Handle Underwear Bomber


Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” was sentenced to life in prison Thursday following his trial in federal court. Two years ago, Republicans insisted trying Abdulmutallab in federal court was a terrible idea.

There was a time when the circumstances surrounding Abdulmutallab’s arrest were part of a lengthy national debate about the best way to handle terrorism cases. There were letters, television appearances and press releases calling on the Obama administration to reverse its position and send Abdulmutallab into the military tribunal system due to perceived weaknesses in the civilian court system.

Now that he’s locked up for life, it’s pretty much radio silence. A search for press releases mentioning Abdulmutallab from members of Congress this week turns up just one, from Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who said the sentence ‘demonstrations that our federal court system is fully capable of bringing terrorist to justice.”

Still it’s worth revisiting just what critics of the civilian court system predicted. Some examples:

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell said in early 2010 that the Obama administration treated Abdulmutallab “as if he had robbed a convenience store” and joked that CNN’s Larry King “has interrogated people longer and better” than the FBI. TPM asked his spokesman if the successful prosecution of Abdulmatallab had changed his views, but his office did not respond.
  • Here’s Sen. Kit Bond from January 2010: “We have learned the hard way that trying terrorists in federal court comes at a high price, from losing out on potentially life-saving intelligence to compromising our sources and methods. We must treat these terrorists as what they are—not common criminals, but enemy combatants in a war.”
  • Reps. Peter King, Buck McKeon, Jerry Lewis, Peter Hoekstra and Lamar Smith “sent a letter to Obama shortly after the attempted attack… demanding that Abdulmutallab be tried in a military court instead.”
  • Michele Bachmann late last year: “He was not an American citizen. We don’t give Miranda warnings to terrorists, and we don’t read them their rights. They don’t have any.”
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins also in January, 2010: “We write to urge the administration to immediately transfer Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a foreign terrorist, to the Department of Defense to be held as an unprivileged enemy belligerent (UEB) and questioned and charged accordingly.” Lieberman’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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