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The GOP, National Security and Facts Not in Evidence

The most significant quote in this Washington Post piece about the post-Northwest Airlines Flight 253 debate on national security comes from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):

“Instead of trying to excuse the inexcusable, the administration should take responsibility for the dire consequences of its decision to swiftly grant civilian rights to this foreign terrorist.”

There are no “dire consequences.” Sessions is, as they say in the legal profession, introducing facts not in evidence. That skirts the line between bloviation and untruth. Nor did President Obama “grant” any rights to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Attorney General Eric Holder explained yesterday that the administration *recognized *rights that the constitution grants to foreign nationals captured in the act of committing crimes on American territory. A left-wing Sessions could just as fairly say that the administration declined to break the law in this case, as the Republicans desire.

And that’s the state of the debate. The Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), reacted to the administration’s decision to charge Abdulmutallab in civilian court and interrogate him through the FBI by making evidence-free assertions that contradicted actual known facts of the case. A veteran FBI counterterrorism agent who has interrogated members of al-Qaeda without torturing them promptly refuted McConnell, point by point. After all, Abdulmutallab is cooperating with his interrogators, strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are ongoing, and the civilian conviction of Abdulmutallab is practically assured. At this point, the best that Republicans like Sessions can do is say that the administration “lost” a month of information from the time Abdulmutallab’s initial interrogation ceased — but that also would introduce facts not in evidence, and would have to explain away a month of U.S.-Yemeni strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

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