Contrary to Republican claims, Abdulmutallab, who tried to blown up a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, has been cooperating with federal authorities, answering their questions about his connections to al-Qaida. Experts on interrogation have long known that torture — and even extreme duress — can lead to false confessions. The best information is gleaned when interrogators take the time to try to establish a relationship, as they seem to have done in this case.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit on Dec. 25, started talking to investigators after two of his family members arrived in the United States and helped earn his cooperation, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.Mr. Abdulmutallab, 23, began speaking to F.B.I. agents last week in Detroit and has not stopped, two government officials said. The officials declined to disclose what information was obtained from him, but said it was aiding in the investigation of the attempted terrorist attack.
“With the family, the F.B.I. approached the suspect,” the senior administration official said, speaking to reporters at the White House on the condition of anonymity because of the pending legal case. “He has been cooperating for days.”
The cooperation was first disclosed during a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, as the suspect’s interrogation became the subject of an intense political debate over whether he initially stopped providing information after he was read his Miranda rights and received a lawyer. The administration was seeking to refute the notion that he was treated differently from any other terrorism suspects since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The White House hastily called a briefing on Tuesday evening to discuss the new details of the case. The senior administration official provided this account:
Two counterterrorism agents flew to Lagos, Nigeria, on Jan. 1. Before their departure, the agents spent days getting briefed on information in the case. In Lagos, the agents met with C.I.A. officers, who provided contacts among the suspect’s family, friends and other associates.
The two agents moved to Abuja, the capital, “to gain an understanding of the suspect,” and ultimately located two family members of Mr. Abdulmutallab, the official said. The relatives, whom the official declined to identify, agreed to cooperate because they “disagreed with his efforts to blow up American targets.”
The agents and the two family members flew back to the United States on Jan. 17. They met with the F.B.I. to discuss a way forward. After meeting with Mr. Abdulmutallab for several days, the official said, the family members persuaded him to talk to investigators.
“The intelligence gained has been disseminated throughout the intelligence community,” the official said, adding, “The best way to get him to talk was working with his family.”
Another federal official said Mr. Abdulmutallab had provided information about people he met in Yemen, where he is believed to have receiving training and explosives from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a branch of the terrorist network.
“He’s retracing his activities over there,” said the official, who would discuss the case only on the condition of anonymity. “You run to ground what he tells you, validate it and follow up. You build a relationship. It’s a pretty standard process.”