Paul Greenberg

Imagine how much other important intelligence might have been obtained if the suspect had been interrogated for days instead of minutes. And in nice, quiet surroundings that invite a guest to talk. Much like those at lovely Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where there exists a facility specifically designed, built and operated to hold and question such suspects.

But this administration still proposes to shutter Gitmo, or at least move it to the American mainland. For no reason except to please our enemies and critics abroad. As if anything we could do, short of disappearing, would please them. Our very existence offends them.

"The over-all intelligence system did not do its job," Admiral Blair told the committee, acknowledging the obvious. That special group he mentioned (HIG) not only wasn't called in; it now turns out that it barely exists. A year into this administration, it still hasn't been organized, or at least sufficiently trained, to be of much use in cases like this.

The military interrogators who would have been of use, who know what questions to ask and possibilities to probe, were never called in.

Who was in charge here? "It's in large part my responsibility," Admiral Blair admitted. But he hasn't resigned. Nor has any other higher-up in the administration, including the secretary of homeland "security" who was testifying at his side.

As it turns out, Janet Napolitano wasn't even consulted before the Justice Department (Eric Holder, attorney general) decided to turn Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab over to the criminal justice system. Nor was Michael Leiter, who heads the National Counterterrorism Center.

This is no way to fight a war. But of course to fight a war you have to recognize you're in one, instead of in criminal court.

It seems the old walls between American intelligence agencies that set the stage for 9/11, and that were supposed to have been eliminated, are still in place. And the big problem still remains: Too many intelligence agencies, not enough responsibility. Or strong leadership. (Would you seriously entrust the security of this country to the likes of the Hon. Eric Holder?)

How fix the problem? A few good, well-earned resignations would do for starters. There's an old rule in the military: a commander is responsible for whatever his unit does or does not do. What a pity it doesn't seem to apply to some of the country's civilian leaders.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.