Key senators: Revoke Abdulmutallab's civilian status, resume terrorist interrogation 

A number of key senators, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Susan Collins, ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, are calling on the Obama administration to revoke the civilian status -- and full American constitutional rights -- given to accused Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Reacting to news reports that Abdulmutallab was questioned for just 50 minutes before being read his Miranda rights and given a court-appointed lawyer, the senators say President Obama has the authority to rescind Abdulmutallab's civilian status and resume the interrogation that ended when he was advised that he had the constitutional right to remain silent.

"The president has affirmed repeatedly that we are at war with al-Qaeda and, as you well know, Abdulmuttalab, a Nigerian national, was trained and sent by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to ruthlessly and mercilessly kill hundreds of innocent civilians, including the Americans on Flight 253 and many more on the ground," Lieberman and Collins write in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and top White House terrorism official John Brennan. "The decision to treat Abdulmuttalab as a criminal rather than an UEB [unprivileged enemy belligerent] almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks against our homeland and Americans and our allies throughout the world."

Lieberman and Collins say the administration "can reverse this error, at least to some degree, by immediately transferring Abdulmuttalab to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense has the authority and capability to hold and interrogate Abdulmuttalab and try him before a military commission."

For his part, Sessions has released a statement saying, "It is now clear beyond doubt that the administration squandered an invaluable opportunity to gather intelligence from a captured terrorist fresh from al Qaeda's operation in Yemen, a new center of their activities." Calling the administration's defense of its actions -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs claimed this weekend that agents had gotten all the information they needed out of Abdulmutallab in those 50 minutes -- Sessions said, "I strongly urge the president to right this wrong and revoke Abdulmutallab’s civilian status. This will allow authorities to resume the terminated interrogation and to gather new intelligence about the operations of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This intelligence could save lives."

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