Stung by criticism that it has taken a too lenient and legalistic approach to homeland security, The Obama Administration yesterday unveiled what could be the most potent weapon yet against terrorism: the plea bargain.
That's right, the plea bargain.
Those who think underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should be treated just like any other terror war detainee -- that he should be shipped straight off to Cuba, with no chance to lawyer-up and no Get Out of Gitmo Free card -- may be overlooking the incredible power of the plea bargain, as a tool for getting him to tell all that he knows about this and other plots.
There are no plea deals in Gitmo. That's an arrow that only U.S. prosecutors have in their quiver. And it makes waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" techniques look like child's play.
"We have different ways of obtaining information from individuals," President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan said yesterday on Meet the Press. "A lot of people . . . understand what they're facing, and their lawyers recognize that there is advantage to talking to us in terms of plea agreements, [and] we're going to pursue that." Brennan also told CNN's "State of the Union" that other terrorism suspects have "given us very valuable information as they've gone through the plea-agreement process," reports The Washington Post.
How timely that "valuable information" will be, if it's forthcoming, is an open question, given the glacial pace with which the wheels of justice turn in the United States. If Abdulmutallab knows of other pending bomb plots, but doesn't cop a plea before they unfold, that might be a slight hitch in the plan. But let the word go out to all terrorists, wherever they may be, that attempted mass murder against U.S. citizens won't be treated lightly by the Obama administration.
You'll be arrested, handcuffed, comfortably housed and fed, given a lawyer. And if at that point you don't break, and won't spill the beans about the al-Qaeda Network, you'll be offered the dreaded plea deal -- which forces you to choose between divulging secrets and serving only 5 of the 7 life sentences you're likely to face, if convicted. Refuse the plea, decline to give up your information, and we could go hard on you. Very hard, indeed.
You'll be given Constitutional protections. You could face a jury trial. The media spotlight will follow you everywhere. Your battery of lawyers will run up huge legal fees. The trial could take years. Proceeds from any book deals will be confiscated. And, if convicted, you'll live out your days with few creature comforts (but complete medical and dental care, as well as recreational amenities and nutritionally-balanced meals, as required by law), in a federal prison somewhere -- maybe even one designated to warehouse jihadists (just so you don't get lonely).
So think long and hard before trying anything, terrorists. We aren't messing around any more. Barack Obama is ready to open a can of whup-ass on you if you come around here, setting off underwear bombs. And if you fail to give up your co-conspirators, you'll be presented with a plea bargain!