On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized President Obama for "never call[ing]" the "high value interrogation unit" following Northwest Airlines bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's arrest. But in fact, as Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has acknowledged, the unit is not "fully operational"; moreover, it is not designed for use in the United States.
Kilmeade: Obama administration "never called" high value interrogation unit
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: But the problem is Time magazine did an interview with the National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair. At which time Dennis Blair said, I was never called and told. They have this thing called this high value interrogation unit that is supposed to be mobile and ready to go and talk to the would-be terrorist, the shoe bomber, the crotch bomber, whoever comes down the line immediately. That thing has never-they were never called.
CARLSON: Right, but President Obama no doubt signed off on that, and some of his close advisers, and I think that letter from Eric Holder yesterday could just be the beginning of the end of falling on the sword.
FACT: High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group not "fully operational" and not designed for cases on U.S. soil
Blair said that he believed High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) "should have" been "invoke[d]." From Blair's January 20 Senate testimony (via Nexis) during questioning by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME):
BLAIR: Senator Collins, I'd been a part of the deliberations which have established this high-value interrogation unit, which we started as part of the executive order as part of the decision to close Guantanamo. That unit was created exactly for this purpose -- to make a decision on whether a certain person who's detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means.
We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have. Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and, duh, you know, we didn't put it then. That's what we will do now, and so we need to make those decisions more carefully. I was not consulted. The decision was made on the scene, seemed logical to the people there, but it should have been taken, using this HIG format, at a higher level.
HIG not "fully operational." As Blair acknowledged in a subsequent statement, the HIG -- a proposed "specialized interrogation group" designed to "bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement" to "interrogate the most dangerous terrorists" -- is not "fully operational." Indeed, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported: "Abdulmutallab couldn't possibly have been questioned by the HIG because the unit doesn't exist yet. The task force had recommended it be created to handle the questioning of 'high value' Qaeda leaders who might be captured overseas -- a criterion that clearly doesn't apply in Abdulmutallab's case. But the proposal is still being reviewed by the National Security Council, and the actual unit has not yet been created." [Newsweek, 1/20/10]
HIG reportedly not designed to have jurisdiction over suspects on U.S. soil. In a November 20, 2009, blog post on Fort Hood shooting suspect Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman wrote: "[I]t is unlikely that the HIG would interview Hasan. Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department's national security division, clarified that the new group is mandated to operate 'overseas only.' " Similarly, Isikoff wrote: "The task force had recommended it be created to handle the questioning of 'high value' Qaeda leaders who might be captured overseas -- a criterion that clearly doesn't apply in Abdulmutallab's case." Isikoff later added: "[S]ince Abdulmutallab was not a Qaeda leader, and was captured in Detroit, not overseas, the HIG wouldn't apply in any case, said the source, who worked closely on the proposal."