GOP ready to play politics of terror card in 2010 elections

"When questioning its detainees, the CIA routinely turns the information provided over to its experts for verification and recommendations for follow-up. The responses of these experts -- "Press him more on this, he knows the details" or "First time we've heard that" -- helps set up more detailed questioning.

None of that happened in Detroit. In fact, we ensured that it wouldn't. After the first session, the FBI Mirandized Abdulmutallab and -- to preserve a potential prosecution -- sent in a "clean team" of agents who could have no knowledge of what Abdulmutallab had provided before he was given his constitutional warnings. As has been widely reported, Abdulmutallab then exercised his right to remain silent.

In retrospect, the inadvisability of this approach seems self-evident."

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace seized on the Op-Ed to question all four of his guests about the incident and why Attorney General Eric Holder condoned it.  He then asked if Holder should resign because of it.  One of his guests, Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, agreed, saying,

"Holder is doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists, and he’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants and terrorists flying into Detroit trying to blow up planes and American citizens who are committing a crime."

This is somewhat significant.  Alexander is hardly considered a bomb-thrower, and the Obama administration, with its backing away of holding a trial in New York City for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is looking on the defensive on the terror issue, certainly in regards to what they did (or didn't do) to make sure that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Police Chief Ray Kelly, and others in New York were on board for hosting a trial.

The issue of trying  Gitmo prisoners like KSM has been an ongoing issue ever since the U.S. decided to hold such "enemy combatants" at a prison in Cuba after the 9/11 attacks.

There has been much written and said about the situation in Gitmo, but the fact of the matter is is that virtually everybody in the foreign policy establishment realizes that the Cuban based prison cannot continue to exist, which is what led Obama last year to sign an executive order declaring he would close Gitmo down by January 22nd of 2010. (Both George W. Bush and John McCain have said in the past they also believed that the facility at Guatanamo Bay needed to be shut down).

We all know that timeline has come and gone.  The decision to try KSM and a few others in New York was controversial initially, but there are many solid reasons for doing so (yes, including the fact that the Bush and Clinton administrations have prosecuted other terrorists in federal courtrooms).

But the fact that the administration never gave much of a heads-up to those in New York seems to have been a huge mistake.

Officially, the administration isn't saying for certain that they're pulling out of NY, but that does seem to be what will happen.

This is relevant for several reasons, and the most pressing is the political:  historically the Republicans have always been considered the stronger party by the public when it comes to defense and national security.  That certainly was one reason why Karl Rove and company were able to gain Congressional seats for Republicans in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

But as the "war on terror" became less central, and the Iraq conflagration became less popular, that advantage by the GOP whittled away in 2006.  But with the Christmas Day incident, and the earlier shooting at Fort Hood, Republicans have been on the offense in criticizing the Obama administration and Democrats.  And you can bet that they'll use this incident with KSM throughout the year.  And in the case of KSM/NYC, it appears that the administration has given them that opportunity.

Adding to the bad political position they're in, yesterday Press Secretary Robert Gibbs essentially said KSM was guilty, which seems to be a defensive reaction to arguing the notion that we should hold a trial for him (i.e., that he can actually get a fair trial).  Gibbs said this :

"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker," said President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs. "He will be brought to justice and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of."

The Obama administration is expected to ask for $200 million in its budget to help cities defray the security costs to host such trials.  That request will get little support on Capitol Hill, from Republicans and Democrats.

Yesterday in the Washington Post, former CIA director Michael Hayden blasted the Obama administration for its handling of several cases over the past year in fighting terrorism and Al-Qaeda.

Hayden (who served under George W. Bush from 20006-2008) writes that "we got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day", regarding the interrogation of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, specifically for only having FBI agents question him for 50 minutes.   Later he writes:

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