The Big Question: The bomber speaks. Are Obama's policies right?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.


Today's question:

The attempted Christmas Day bomber is talking to authorities.
 
What does this say about President Barack Obama’s interrogation and detention policies? What does it mean for the opposition?


Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

It says that using the legal system, as we have in the past with many other terror suspects, works and that the attacks on the president's interrogation and detention policies are baseless and politically motivated.


Hal Lewis, professor at U.C. Santa Barbara, said:

This guy is a special case, as are they all. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting people to talk, let alone to tell the truth when they do talk.

The 15th century textbook on witchcraft (Malleus Maleficarum, approved by the Pope as the ultimate authority on the subject) says explicitly that no person should be convicted of witchcraft without an explicit confession out of her own mouth. Many people met that test and were convicted, because the art of extracting confessions was well advanced in those days. You get what you have earned.

The simple fact (if fact it is) that this guy is talking may or may not mean he is telling the truth, may or may not mean that he knows something useful, and has no real significance about the skills or lack thereof of the people managing the case. What is certain is that those of us on the outside know nothing about what is actually happening.


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

Abdulmutallab is talking -- but what is he saying? We don't know, and won't know for sure. And making this into a test case for Obama's "no torture" rule is problematic, at best. What if Abdulmutallab refused to say anything at all: would that mean torture is justified? I don't think so. If you don't rule out torture and other similarly "unorthodox" methods of interrogation from the beginning, for moral reasons, and apply a purely empirical results-oriented test, then you begin to fall down a slippery slope quite quickly.


Dick Morris, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

It is outrageous that the Justice Department leaked this information to cover its butt for the decision to let him lawyer up. It can only alert our enemies that we have important information about their future actions against us.


Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

I think it says less about President Obama’s interrogation and detention policies and more about the temperament of the American people. It takes a long time for a free people to adjust to the moral commitment that safety and defense require and after 9/11 we Americans went overnight from a “culture of contentment” — John Kenneth’s Galbraith’s phrase — to a people under attack. There was much denial and much honest opposition to the tactics and strategies in Iraq. Now we are all ready to defend ourselves. The Christmas bomber skyrocketed Scott Brown in the Senate race. On Christmas he was 20 points behind his opponent. I am from Massachusetts and felt that the ambivalence we felt about the war on terror evaporated with the Christmas bomber and we were ready to fight and defend. In spite of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano’s weasel response and commentary, the individual in the plane who thwarted the attack brought us to a turning point. If President Obama wanted to join into this heartland commitment which now includes Massachusetts and New England, he should fire Napolitano and replace her with a warrior: Wes Clark, Colin Powell or Tammy Duckworth come to mind. Capt. Duckworth would be perfect. We are ready and the enemy senses it. They will try increasingly now to deal or plead.


Cheri Jacobus, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

The Obama Administration is playing politics with terrorism and placing the safety and security of the American people in jeopardy.  When protecting the credibility and employment of Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is a priority over protecting the lives of the American people, the judgement and perhaps even the morals of the President and his close advisors should come into question and under closer scrutiny.
 
If the Obama Administration officials deem it appropriate to leak bits and pieces of information about the Christmas Day bomber in order to boost their own political standing, then information becomes little more than propaganda and cannot be trusted.