House GOP slams White House handling of top al Qaeda chieftain

That decision "suggests a fundamental lack of coherent national security strategy" by administration officials, House Intelligence and Armed Services committee chiefs Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich) and Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) wrote in a letter to President Obama on Monday. 

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GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Ed Royce (Calif.), chairmen of the House Judiciary and Foreign Relations panels, co-signed the letter slamming the administration's handling of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.

A member of al Qaeda's senior command and son-in-law to Osama bin Laden, Abu Ghaith pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges on March 1 during a pre-trial hearing in federal court in New York. 

Abu Ghaith's arraignment hearing in New York took place a day after he was remanded into U.S. custody by counterterrorism officials in Jordan. 

House lawmakers claim there was no way U.S. intelligence officials had enough time to interrogate Abu Ghaith on current and future al Qaeda operations during that 24-hour window. 

"We have little confidence that [U.S.] intelligence professionals had the time necessary to question him seriously about these [operations] or plans," the House committee chiefs wrote. 

The decision to fast-track Abu Ghaith through the federal courts process is more confusing to lawmakers, who noted that lower-level al Qaeda suspects in American custody  "have been subjected to significantly more questioning" by U.S. intelligence officials in the past. 

"It seems the administration's interagency planning, coordination and considered policy options were disturbingly limited" as a result, according to the letter. 

Rogers, McKeon and others are demanding Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel explain how U.S. officials "ensured that all intelligence was gained" from Abu Ghaith prior to his arraignment, according to the letter. 

Additionally, the committee chairmen want details on how the White House can guarantee "the protection of U.S. interests ... if our intelligence officers are not allowed sufficient access" to top terrorism suspects, the letter states. 

"This is one of the most fundamental elements of our global counterterrorism efforts," they said, regarding the intelligence community's ability to question terror suspects in American custody.

"Blinding ourselves to possible intelligence about terrorism threats does not make them go away," the House lawmakers added. 

Monday's letter is only the latest example of GOP pushback on the White House's handling of the Abu Ghaith case coming from Capitol Hill. 

Earlier this month, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) criticized Obama's decision to move Abu Ghaith through the federal courts rather than the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

“Military detention for enemy combatants has been the rule, not the exception. By processing terrorists like [Ghaith] through civilian courts, the administration risks missing important opportunities to gather intelligence to prevent future attacks and save lives," according to a joint statement issued by the three Senate Republicans. 

"We are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliated groups, and America’s detention policy must reflect that reality," the lawmakers added at the time. 

Bin Laden's son-in-law is one of the few top al Qaeda leaders U.S. officials have taken into custody under the White House's increasingly aggressive counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda and various factions of the radical Islamic terror group.