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Admiral Blair: 'Duh! You Know, We Didn't…But We Will Now'

In Crime, Politics, World on January 21, 2010 at 2:08 am
Admiral Dennis C.

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Those were the words Wednesday from Admiral Dennis Blair, the United States Director of National Intelligence.

He was testifying before the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Click on the link, which will take you to the hearing page. Toward the upper left corner is a link, “view archive webcast.” Click on that, go about 69 minutes into the hearing and you will see Blair — I’m sorry, Admiral Blair — pretend to slap himself on the forehead when he says it.

He was responding to a question from Senator Collins from Maine who wanted to know whether he, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano or Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, had been consulted before the decision was made to read Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his rights and treat him like a criminal.

As it turns out, while none of the three — who were testifying as part of the first of two hearings by the committee on “the lessons and implications of the Christmas Day attack” — were consulted by the Justice Department, they probably all should have been.

That’s why, last August, President Obama created the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group or HIG.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose, to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” Blair told the committee. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have.”

Blair’s comment in the headline — “Duh! You know…” — was made as he explained the HIG program was created with the thought of people being detained overseas, not within the United States and, as a result, no one really thought to invoke it.

Over at the Senate Judiciary Committee during a similarly themed hearing — this one was “Securing America’s Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication — FBI Director Robert Mueller, pretty much backed up what Blair had to say, testifying that “It happened so fast there was no time really at that point” to figure out if they should bring in other interrogators.

While they appeared to be on the same page while visiting the Senate, Mueller and Blair — or at least their aides — must have had words later in the day because Blair later released a statement, saying:

“My remarks today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs have been misconstrued. The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody. They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.”

So, here we are two weeks after the President released the review of the intelligence failures leading up to the attempted attack on Christmas Day and calling for more cooperation, it seems the children are still having a hard time playing together.

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