The worst case is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day — was one of multiple would-be terrorists probing for weaknesses in American security. Which means that other attacks might follow.
Abdulmutallab reportedly trained with al- Qaida in Yemen. It would be nice to know exactly who trained him, whom he trained with, who devised the plans, who helped him travel and what he knew of other potential attacks. That would be actionable intelligence, the Holy Grail of counter-terrorism.
But U.S. authorities may never get that intelligence, because the FBI insisted on treating Abdulmutallab as a common criminal and reading him his Miranda rights within hours of his arrest. This looks like a stunning display of soft-headedness by supposedly tough-minded people responsible for the nation’s security.
The arguments over how to deal with arrested terror suspects have been plagued by extremes: Throw them in dark hole and bring out the thumbscrews, or treat them like criminal defendants from the get-go and warn them against self-incrimination.
Whoever supervised Abdulmutallab’s questioning appears to have bought into the latter extreme — which we hope has not become a policy (or reflex) of the Obama administration.
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