Terror cases has WH considering citizenship process, official says
By Anne E. Kornblut
Warning that would-be terrorists are "hiding within our midst," White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Tuesday night that President Obama will not allow potential attackers to use U.S. citizenship as a shield - and that the naturalization process is being looked at to see if there can be improvements.
Brennan also said that a new high-value detainee interrogation group, known as the HIG, had been deployed to question recent terrorism suspects, including the naturalized citizen who allegedly tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. The group's resources were also used in the questioning of a suspect who sought to down an airline on Christmas Day, he said.
Brennan said that, while the rise in terrorism from people with easy access to the United States is being closely watched, it is important not to overreact "so we become xenophobic."
But he did suggest that U.S. officials might not treat American citizens with terrorist aims any differently than they would suspects captured abroad.
"Individuals shouldn't be able to hide behind their U.S. passports, behind their U.S. citizenship," Brennan said at a dinner hosted by the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank.
"There are certain laws that govern how we deal with U.S. persons and U.S. citizens and those laws are adhered to, but if we were to give U.S. persons ... a pass simply because of the passport they hold or their place of birth, we would be making the American people ... more vulnerable to those attacks."
Raising the idea of recent proposals in Congress to strip terrorism suspects of their citizenship, Brennan said such efforts might do little to prevent attacks because they would punish suspects only after the fact. Furthermore, he said, sending someone to prison for life has the same practical effect as stripping away the rights of U.S. citizens. Still, he described the issues as "important and legitimate questions that honest people can have very different views of."
In remarks that focused largely on the administration's counterterrorism strategy, Brennan publicly confirmed that national security adviser James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta are in Pakistan talking to officials about Faisal Shahzad, the suspect captured after a failed car bomb attempt in Times Square on May 1.
He said that the administration's newly created interrogation program was used to interrogate Shahzad, as well as the attempted airline attacker, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Although the group had not been fully activated by the time Abdulmutallab was taken into custody on Christmas Day, some of its participants did gain access to him eventually. "These mobile interrogation teams have been deployed on multiple occasions," Brennan said.
Anne E. Kornblut
May 18, 2010; 10:29 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , National Security
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