Less than one hour. That’s right, less than one hour.
In fact, just fifty minutes.
That’s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning Abdulmutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.
Then, he was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking.
How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?
On Christmas Day, the skies above Detroit became a battleground in the War on Terrorism.
That day the bomb being carried by Abdulmutallab failed to detonate. Thanks to the courageous action of the passengers and crew, nearly 300 lives were saved on the plane and more lives were spared on the ground.
The government’s security system, a front line in the war against terrorists, failed long before Abdulmutallab boarded his flight to the United States.
It failed when his visa wasn’t revoked, even though his father had warned our embassy in Nigeria about his son’s ties to Islamic extremists.
It failed when the intelligence community was unable to connect the dots that would have placed Abdulmutallab on the terrorist watchlist.
It failed when this terrorist stepped on to the plane in Amsterdam with the same explosive used by the “Shoe Bomber,” Richard Reid, more than 8 years ago.
But, today, I want to discuss another failure—a failure that occurred after Abdulmutallab had already been detained by authorities in Detroit—an error that undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country.
This failure occurred when the Obama Justice Department unilaterally decided to treat this foreign terrorist as an ordinary criminal.
Abdulmutallab was questioned for less than one hour before the Justice Department advised him that he could remain silent and offered him an attorney at our expense.
Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist “lawyered up” and stopped talking.
When the Obama administration decided to treat Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation’s top intelligence officials.
The Director of National Intelligence was not consulted.
The Secretary of Defense was not consulted.
The Secretary of Homeland Security was not consulted.
The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center was not consulted.
They would have explained the importance of gathering all possible intelligence about Yemen, where there is a serious threat from terrorists whose sights are trained on this nation. They would have explained the critical nature of learning all we could from Abdulmutallab. But they were never asked.
President Obama recently used the phrase that “we are at war” with terrorists. But unfortunately his rhetoric does not match the actions of his administration.
The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.
And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them, fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day.
There’s no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab’s interrogation. There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal.
This charade must stop. Foreign terrorists are enemy combatants and they must be treated as such. The safety of the American people depends on it.
I’m Senator Susan Collins from Maine. Thank you for listening.