Attorney General Holder in virtual shouting match over Christmas bomber
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rarely raises his voice. But at the very end of a three-hour congressional hearing on Tuesday he was in a virtual shouting match with Virginia Republican Representative Frank Wolf.
Wolf, questioning whether valuable intelligence was lost, was furious about the initial hourlong interrogation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man captured after trying to ignite a bomb aboard a U.S. commercial jetliner on Christmas Day last year.
“There were so many things that were missed,” Wolf said during the hearing.
He suggested that photos of detainees released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should have been shown to Abdulmutallab amid concerns that some may have joined militant groups. Wolf said Abdulmutallab also should have been shown a picture of an American-born cleric believed to be in Yemen and tied to al Qaeda militants.
“Did you see this man? Did you see this man? Did you see this person? You didn’t have enough time to do that,” Wolf said. “So there was an opportunity that was missed and we’ll never get it back again.”
Abdulmutallab told investigators that al Qaeda militants in Yemen trained him and gave him the bomb he tried to ignite.
Holder, who had kept his cool for much of the hearing, shot back at Wolf: “That’s simply not true.”
Wolf retorted: “It is true, it is true, we missed opportunities.”
Holder was clearly angry and fired back again with his own voice rising significantly: “That is not true. I know.”
“Well, I say it is true, you say it isn’t true, but the people that I’ve talked to say you missed an opportunity,” Wolf said as the two virtually shouted over each other. Wolf said Abdulmutallab was never shown pictures during his interrogations.
Holder countered that he had access to documents and the interrogation details. “For the record, that’s not true,” he said as he regained his composure and the questioning turned to other subjects.
The Obama administration was roundly criticized for what was considered by some as a brief interrogation before Abdulmutallab was attended to by doctors for injuries suffered when the bomb stitched to his underwear only burned him rather than exploding and destroying the plane.
After receiving medical treatment, Abdulmutallab was again approached by investigators but after briefly talking with them again, he stopped and they subsequently read him his legal rights. Weeks later, with some prodding by his family, he began cooperating again and answering questions. Administration officials have said they’ve obtained valuable intelligence from Abdulmutallab from the initial interview and later ones as well.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Holder testifies to a congressional panel.)