WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., urged the Administration Monday to move Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from civilian to military custody because he is an enemy combatant and should be detained, interrogated and ultimately charged as such.  Abdulmutallab, who is charged with attempting to blow up a jetliner with over 250 people heading to Detroit on Christmas Day, was interrogated, charged, and is being held by civilian legal authorities, despite having been trained and directed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula.

            A copy of the letter follows:


January 25, 2010


The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Attorney General of the United States

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001


The Honorable John O. Brennan

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500


Dear Mr. Attorney General and Mr. Brennan:


We write to urge the Administration to immediately transfer Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a foreign terrorist, to the Department of Defense to be held as an unprivileged enemy belligerent (UEB) and questioned and charged accordingly. 


The President has affirmed repeatedly that we are at war with al-Qaeda and, as you well know, Abdulmutallab, 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.  Osama Bin Laden also claimed yesterday that al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack. 


Nevertheless, once Abdulmutallab was in custody, federal law enforcement officials on the ground in Detroit read the terrorist his Miranda rights.  According to press reports, by the time the Miranda rights were read and Abdulmutallab went silent, he had been questioned for just under an hour, during which time he had been speaking openly about the attack and AQAP’s role.  The decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than a UEB 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.


During a hearing before our Committee last week titled Intelligence Reform: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack, we were told that the Department of Justice did not consult with leadership in the intelligence community and the Department of Defense for their input on whether or not to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal and read him his Miranda rights.  In addition, in the aftermath of the hearing, we learned that the so-called High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which the Department of Justice announced last August – more than four months ago – is not yet operational.


Though the President has said repeatedly that we are at war, it does not appear to us that the President’s words are reflected in the actions of some in the Executive branch, including some at the Department of Justice, responsible for fighting that war.  The unilateral decision by the Department of Justice to treat Abdulmutallab – a belligerent fighting for and trained by an al-Qaeda franchised organization – as a criminal rather than a UEB and to forego information that may have been extremely helpful to winning this war demonstrates that very point.


The Administration can reverse this error, at least to some degree, by immediately transferring Abdulmutallab to the Department of Defense.  The Department of Defense has the authority and capability to hold and interrogate Abdulmutallab and try him before a military commission.  We urge you to take that course of action immediately and to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to avoid repeating such mistakes in the future.






Joseph I. Lieberman                                                                Susan M. Collins

Chairman                                                                                 Ranking Member