Debate over terror trial continues as suspect again cooperates


WASHINGTON — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, arrested last Christmas for trying to explode a bomb on a plane arriving in Detroit,
has begun talking again to authorities, officials said Tuesday, a
development that only ratcheted up the debate over whether he should be
tried in federal court or before a military tribunal.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
confirmed that the young Nigerian operative has changed his mind and is
speaking to federal agents again. He earlier talked to agents for about
50 minutes on the day of his arrest, and then refused to cooperate
further. Agents then advised of him of his Miranda rights against
self-incrimination, and he stopped talking altogether.

“My understanding is that he is cooperating,” she
said, “that they have gotten useful information out of him. My
information is that is continuing” since he was given the Miranda
warning upon his arrest on Christmas Day.

Sources at the FBI declined to elaborate
on what he may be telling them or to weigh the value of his
information, except to say, “We wouldn’t steer you away from”
concluding that he is being cooperative now. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III also confirmed that Abdulmutallab was talking again.

The issue of the suspect’s cooperation has become a lightning rod in Washington,
as Obama administration officials insisted they had gotten as much
intelligence as they were going to get from Abdulmutallab, a member of
the Yemen branch of al-Qaida.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, who want Abdulmutallab and all other terror suspects to be confined and tried by military authorities at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, say the fact that he is saying more to authorities shows that he
never should have been Mirandized and instead shipped off to Cuba for in-depth, secret interrogations.

“There is a life span on this kind of intelligence,” said one Republican source on Capitol Hill. “If you know the location of an operative one day, and al-Qaida
knows you are captured, how likely is it the operative is still in the
same place the next day, let alone more than a month after?

“And this seems to contradict claims from the
administration that they’ve gotten all the information they needed out
of him. If that was so, then the bomber wouldn’t have anything more to
talk about.”

Also on Tuesday a bipartisan group of senators
announced legislation to stop funding for the any civilian trials of
terror suspects, including the alleged Sept. 11 plotters whom the administration has wanted to try in New York City. The senators want them tried instead before a military commission in Cuba.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,
said the previous Bush administration tried more than 300 terror
defendants in federal courts, while only three were prosecuted in
military tribunals.

“We’re all, Democrats and Republicans, committed to keeping America safe,” Reid said. “We just have different ways of doing it.”

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