Connecting the Dots on National Security

Connect the dots. A fun childrens activity in which an abstract grouping of black specks is transformed into a cohesive picture. But in the case of Christmas (or underwear) Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab there have been a lot of dots that do not connect. The quick and solo decision of Attorney General Eric Holder, the fact crucial members of the administration’s anti-terrorism team weren’t consulted before Miranda rights were read, and the no-show of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing.

The Senate GOP patiently awaited answers as to why Eric Holder decided to act so quickly and without consent in his actions. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote,

“First, why were Miranda rights given to the obvious terrorist after only a brief session of questioning, which predictably ended his cooperation?

Second, at what level of authority was this decision taken to treat him as a criminal defendant instead of an unlawful enemy combatant? Who made this decision.”

Moreover, the Mirandizing came almost exactly one year after President Obama’s decision to create a High Value Detainee Interrogation Group designed to question terrorists. Add another entry to the ever-expanding “useless and never used government bureaucracies” list.

As with any constitutional issue, it is worthwhile to see both sides of the coin. The Miranda rights are meant to protect Americans from the abuses of government, to arm people with the knowledge necessary to invoke their 5th Amendment right to avoid coercive self-incrimination. But, and I stress, this constitutional right need not apply to Abdulmutallab. Under Obama’s newly minted 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, the Christmas Day bomber seems to fall clearly under the definition of “unprivileged enemy belligerent.” The be classified as an unprileged enemy belligerent one must fall have either:

(A) engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners;

(B) purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or

(C) been a part of al-Qaeda at the time of the alleged offense under this chapter.

Check. Check. And…Check. Even if we’d like to argue that stuffing explosive in your underpants and walking onto a passenger aircraft with the intent of killing everyone on board isn’t considered “hostile” there’s the small fact that he was trained, armed, and dispatched by al-Qaeda. And unless they’ve decided in the past month to tone down their hatred of all things American, they’re likely planning something similar. Of course by Mirandizing Abdulmutallab we lost a valuable opportunity to learn of these plots, but hey, at least he didn’t feel coerced.

We are now at a turning point. The Obama Administration must begin to take security issues seriously. In 2003 Obama told 60 Minutes that,

“…[D]o these folks deserve Miranda rights? Do they deserve to be treated like a shoplifter down the block? Of course not.”

Staring down the barrel of an enormous national deficit now is not the time to reverse course on terrorism. As Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, explained,

“We’ve reached a point now where there’s an intimate link between our solvency and our national security. . .The whole world is watching.”

Acknowledging that our nation’s economy and debt are priorities, we need to continue to keep our government accountable in keeping America safe. Part of accountability is being able to answer simple questions like “who made this decision.” Our safety (and increasingly precious tax dollars) are in their hands – irrational, expensive, and potentially disastrous decisions should not be the trend in our government any longer. When it comes to national security and civilian lives we cannot focus on winning political points, waging philosophical battles, or worrying about what people may think. Our sole concern must be the safety of the people who elect leaders, such as President Obama, for guidance and protection.. The uncohesive dots that currently make up our approach to terrorism must be connected. A picture of a secure nation must emerge.

– Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee (hat tip to Amy Burggraf)