Brennan Says Critics of Terrorism Policy ‘Serve the Goals of al-Qaeda’
Building off his Sunday retaliation at Republican critics over the Mirandization and (successful!) interrogation of would-be Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan goes much further in a USA Today op-ed.
It begins as an aggressive defense of the utility of law-enforcement approaches to interrogation — alongside an observation of the *disutility *of torture and military detention, the preferred GOP solution for Abdulmutallab:
The most important breakthrough occurred after Abdulmutallab was read his rights, which the FBI made standard policy under Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s attorney general. The critics who want the FBI to ignore this long-established practice also ignore the lessons we have learned in waging this war: Terrorists such as Jose Padilla and Saleh al-Mari did not cooperate when transferred to military custody, which can harden one’s determination to resist cooperation.
Then comes the real pushback:
Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall. Nor do they deserve the abject fear they seek to instill. They will, however, be dismantled and destroyed, by our military, our intelligence services and our law enforcement community. And the notion that America’s counterterrorism professionals and America’s system of justice are unable to handle these murderous miscreants is absurd.
The Republican Party perfected fear-mongering over al-Qaeda just months after 9/11, when John Ashcroft lectured civil libertarians, “Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.” Brennan then was a senior CIA official about to be tapped by President Bush to serve as the first head of what would become the National Counterterrorism Center. He’s playing the game as he learned it.
But just like Ashcroft went too far, so does Brennan. What actually serves the interests of al-Qaeda is the sacrifice of American values in the pursuit of a phantom of perfect security, and the resulting counterproductive and nonstrategic overreactions it provokes. (Such as invading Iraq.) Brennan makes some of that case with his “terrorists-aren’t-100-feet-tall” line. But that’s the solid case, not the political-attacks case, which just reduces identification with American enemies to an unfortunate normalcy in political discourse. What the GOP wants to do inadvertently helps al-Qaeda, not the vitriol with which it’s being stated.
And one more thing. Brennan writes:
Cries to try terrorists only in military courts lack foundation. There have been three convictions of terrorists in the military tribunal system since 9/11, and hundreds in the criminal justice system — including high-profile terrorists such as Reid and 9/11 plotter Zacarius Moussaoui.
So why is Obama continuing with a new version of military commissions?