Politics of Terror: Obama Misses Own Deadline to Close Gitmo

The Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee also wrote in their letter to the attorney general, "We believe the department's hasty decision to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Abdulmutallab deprived our intelligence agencies of a critical opportunity to interrogate an al Qaeda-trained terrorist who was fresh from training in Yemen."

Asked about the letter, Matthew Miller, the director of public affairs for the Justice Department, said in a statement, "Since Sept. 11, 2001, every terrorism suspect apprehended in the United States by either the Bush administration or the Obama administration has been initially arrested, held or charged under federal criminal law. Al Qaeda terrorists such as Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui and others have all been prosecuted in federal court, and the arrest and charging of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was handled no differently.

"Those who now argue that a different action should have been taken in this case were notably silent when dozens of terrorists were successfully prosecuted in federal court by the previous administration," Miller's statement said.

Asked if the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab was made at the level of an assistant U.S. attorney, Mueller said, "No, it's above that. It's above that. I hate to get into the -- because I'm not fully familiar with all who talked to whom on the afternoon. But I do know it was not made necessarily at the local level."

On Thursday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said at the White House briefing, "I believe [the] decision was made by the attorney general."

Officials reportedly held a series of classified video conferences in the hours after the attempted bombing and nobody raised objections to moving forward with bringing criminal charges against Abdulmutallab.

"In the hours immediately after Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to detonate an explosive device on board a Northwest Airlines flight, FBI agents who responded to the scene interrogated him and obtained intelligence that has already proved useful in the fight against al Qaeda," Miller said.

"It was only later that day, after the interrogation had already yielded intelligence, that he was read his Miranda rights," Miller added. "After the department informed the president's national security team about its planned course of action, Abdulmutallab was charged in criminal court."

Witnesses at Thursday's Intelligence Committee hearing included Blair, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, NSA Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander and CIA Deputy Director Steve Kappes.

Following the hearing, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the ranking Republican on the committee, expressed his concern about how the FBI handled the case and cited the State Department and Justice Department for not being more forthcoming as the committee conducts its review of the failed attack.

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