I sure wish we had some grownups in the White House.
Nor has anyone suggested that Abdulmutallab could not be charged and convicted in a criminal trial eventually. The unanswered question is why the administration rushed to put him in the criminal system from the get-go. This was completely unnecessary: The law is clear that a foreign terrorist affiliated with al-Qaeda who is captured on U.S. soil may be lawfully held as an enemy combatant. Once Abdulmutallab had been thoroughly interrogated, the administration would have been free to choose whether to charge him in the civilian or military system (though we think the latter would be preferable). The point of interrogation, and holding Abdulmutallab even temporarily as an enemy combatant, is to get information to stop future attacks; the point of a trial, whether civilian or military, is to punish the wrongdoer. Conflating the two is Brennan’s — and the administration’s — most frustrating and dangerous mistake.