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The Administration’s Pushback on Mirandizing Abdulmutallab

Ever since Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told a congressional panel two weeks ago that he was cut out of the loop on reading would-be Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights, it’s been a circus. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) plan to introduce a bill requiring the intelligence and homeland security agencies to have a say in any future Mirandization decision for a foreign terror suspect captured in the United States. Just yesterday, Michael Hayden, Bush’s final CIA director, called Mirandizing Abdulmutallab the latest in a line of alleged failures of leadership on counterterrorism from the Obama administration.

But now the administration is painting a different picture. Both Blair and FBI Director Robert Mueller presented the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab as an ad-hoc one made by the FBI special agent on the scene at the Detroit airport when Northwest Airlines Flight 253 landed with the suspect subdued. But maybe not, [reports the Los Angeles Times](http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-terror-miranda1-2010feb01,0,860201.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+latimes/news/nationworld/nation+(L.A.+Times+-+National+News)):

The decision to advise the accused Christmas Day attacker of his right to remain silent was made after teleconferences involving at least four government agencies — and only after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had stopped talking to authorities, according to knowledgeable law enforcement officials.

Among those involved in the hastily called teleconferences were representatives from the Justice Department and the FBI, along with officials from the State Department and the CIA.

“It was a [law enforcement] community-wide conference, and they discussed a number of things,” one source said on condition of anonymity. “That’s when decisions were made on which course was going to proceed, to Mirandize him or otherwise.”

Whether or not that’s true, it’s consistent with the timeline of Blair’s and Mueller’s testimony — that the interrogation proceeded along the FBI’s timetable, except the agents later put a conference call together to strategize. Blair wasn’t in on it if so. But that says more about Blair’s position in the Obama administration than it does about the administration itself.

Again, this may not be true. Attorney General Eric Holder will undoubtedly have to answer questions about it from Congress.

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