Karl Rove went on Fox News twice yesterday -- first on Your World and later on Hannity, where he essentially repeated his earlier performance -- to accuse the Obama White House of being soft on terrorism because it did not declare Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be bomber of that Northwest flight into Detroit, an enemy combatant:
Rove: This shows the big difference in this administration's approach to it. This guy was treated not as an enemy combatant, and turned over to the FBI and the CIA for interrogation, he was charged criminally, which means he immediately lawyered up and the amount of information we're going to get from him is going to be this much, compared to what we could get if he was just simply sweat by the FBI and the CIA -- not even using enhanced interrogation techniques, just using what police would be able to use if you weren't lawyered up. This is a very troubling way in which the administration has handled this.
On Hannity, he claimed that by filing criminal charges, "we treat him as a guy who tried to knock over a Seven-Eleven or got caught shoplifting."
Memo to Karl: Convenience-store robbers and shoplifters do not get charged with terrorism in federal court. Just sayin'.
Moreover, the problem with Rove's claim that "this shows the difference" between the Bush and Obama administrations is flatly false (aka a lie).
Faced with nearly identical circumstances with would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid -- who was attempting to use the exact same kind of explosive on an American flight -- the Bush administration in 2001 did exactly the same thing: it filed criminal charges and eventually tried Reid in federal court.
What's worth noting is that Reid, too, was potentially an intelligence bonanza, since he had numerous operational ties with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
Then there was Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who was eventually convicted of plotting with Al Qaeda to participate in the 9/11 attacks. He, too, was treated as a federal criminal by the Bush administration.
Finally, it should be noted that declaring suspects "enemy combatants" -- especially when they are captured away from the field of battle -- is actually a legal minefield fraught with far greater uncertainty than the use of federal criminal statutes. The classic example of this was the case of Jose Padilla, who was declared an "enemy combatant" by the Bush administration and whose case wound up taking years to be settled by the Supreme Court -- which eventually insisted that he be tried in federal court. Padilla's case was somewhat different, since he is a U.S. citizen, but one can rest assured that the issue of habeas corpus central to his case would be resurrected should Obama have followed Rove's advice.
But then, anyone who follows Karl Rove's advice deserves everything that inevitably will happen to them.