Palin's tea party speech full of false and misleading national security claims

During her address before the National Tea Party Convention, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin made numerous false and misleading claims about national security and foreign policy, including suggesting that the Obama administration doesn't use the word “war,” that interrogators didn't ask alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab about his training and future al Qaeda plots, and that Abdulmutallab has not provided information since he “lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent.”

CLAIM: Abdulmutallab “lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent”

From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:

PALIN: What followed was equally disturbing after he was captured. He was questioned for only 50 minutes. We have a choice in how to do this. The choice was only question him for 50 minutes and then read his Miranda rights. The administration says then there are no downsides or upsides to treating terrorists like civilian criminal defendants. But a lot of us would beg to differ. For example, there are questions we would have liked this foreign terrorist to answer before he lawyered up and invoked our U.S. constitutional right to remain silent. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]

REALITY: Administration source reportedly says Abdulmutallab currently “cooperating,” officials say he provided intelligence after being Mirandized. Responding to Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Diane Feinstein in a February 2 hearing (accessed via the Nexis database), FBI Director Robert Mueller agreed that “Abdulmutallab has provided valuable information” and that “the interrogation continues despite the fact that he has been Mirandized.” Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified in the same hearing: “There are decisions that have to be made in which you balance the requirement for intelligence with the requirement for a prosecution and the sorts of pressure that you bring onto the people that you arrest in either form. It's got to be a decision made at the time. And I think the balance struck in the Mutallab was a very -- was an understandable balance. We got good intelligence, we're getting more.”

Moreover, a February 2 Reuters article reported “a law enforcement official['s]” comment that “Abdulmutallab is talking and has been talking since last week providing useful, actionable and current intelligence that we've been actively following up on.” The New York Times also reported:

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.” [New York Times, 2/2/10]

CLAIM: Abdulmutallab not interrogated about training and future plots

From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:

PALIN: There are questions that we would have liked answered before he lawyered up, like where exactly were you trained and by whom. You are bragging about all these other terrorists just like you, who are they? When and where will they try to strike next? [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]

REALITY: Interrogators reportedly sought and received such information from Abdulmutallab. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 20, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified that interrogators interviewed Abdulmutallab “to gain intelligence, intelligence about whether there's another bomb, whether other coconspirators, where'd he get the bomb” (accessed via Nexis). Also, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported on his blog:

While at the hospital, he was interrogated for “about an hour” by veteran FBI agents with the bureau's Joint Terrorist Task Force in Detroit. During that hour, one official said, the agents learned a wealth of information from Abdulmutallab about his connections to Al Qaeda; who he met with in Yemen; where he got the bomb that was sewn into his underwear; and “who trained him in Yemen.” Added another official: “We got a lot of leads.”

The Associated Press similarly reported: “Shortly after 3:30 p.m., FBI agents began interviewing the suspect in his hospital room, joined by a CBP officer and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. The suspect spoke openly, said one official, talking in detail about what he'd done and the planning that went into the attack. Other counterterrorism officials speaking on condition of anonymity said it was during this questioning that he admitted he had been trained and instructed in the plot by al-Qaida operatives in Yemen.”

CLAIM: Obama administration uses “words like 'overseas contingency operation' instead of the word 'war' ”

From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:

PALIN: Let me say, too, it's not politicizing our security to discuss our concerns because Americans deserve to know the truth about the threats that we face and what the administration is or isn't doing about them. So let's talk about them. New terms used like “overseas contingency operation” instead of the word “war.” That reflects a world view that is out of touch with the enemy that we face. We can't spin our way out of this threat. It is one thing to call a pay raise a job created or saved. It is quite another to call the devastation that a homicide bomber can inflict a “manmade disaster.” I just say, come on, Washington, if no where else, national security, that is one place where you've got to call it like it is. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]

REALITY: Obama has repeatedly used the word “war.” President Obama used the word “war” at least seven times during his January 27 State of the Union speech. Moreover, following Obama's January 7 remarks on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight -- remarks during which Obama stated, “We are at war. We are at war with al Qaeda” -- numerous conservative media figures falsely suggested that prior to that speech, Obama had not characterized the fight against terrorists as a war. In fact, in his inaugural address, Obama stated that "[o]ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," and he has repeatedly discussed terrorism as the rationale for U.S. military action abroad.

CLAIM: “Our president spent a year reaching out to hostile regimes, writing personal letters to dangerous dictators”

From Palin's February 7 National Tea Party Convention speech:

PALIN: It's that same kind of misguided thinking that is seen throughout the administration's foreign policy decisions. Our president spent a year reaching out to hostile regimes, writing personal letters to dangerous dictators and apologizing for America, and what do we have to show for that? Here's what we have to show. North Korea tested nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles. [CNN Transcripts, 2/6/10]

REALITY: Bush, Clinton also wrote personal appeals to North Korean leader. A December 6, 2007, Associated Press article reported, “President Bush's personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, raising the possibility of normalized relations if he fully discloses his nuclear programs by year's end, is a turnabout for a president who has labeled the communist regime part of an 'axis of evil.' ” AP further reported that the letter “reflected how U.S. policy toward the nation has shifted from the days when Bush shunned the dictator.” Also, a May 27, 1999, Associated Press article reported, “North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, received a letter on Wednesday from President Clinton brought by a special envoy to the isolated Communist country, the official North Korean news agency reported. The envoy, William Perry, delivered the letter through Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea's legislative Supreme People's Assembly, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which was monitored in Seoul.”