Private Underpants In the News

I'm demoting Captain Underpants, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to Private Underpants. He's a nobody, a kid following the pied piper, and the over-reaction to him by our elected officials, is becoming embarrassing. Republicans are using him, just as they are using the issue of the 9/11 trials, to steal the spotlight and rally their troops to get them votes in 2010. How do they even keep a straight face while they are spouting their nonsense?

In today's installment, Attorney General Eric Holder sent this letter to the Senate defending the decisions made following Abdulmatallab's arrest. And Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair seems to have forgotten there's a criminal case pending against Abdulmutallab. Holder should have insisted Blair not discuss details of Abdulmatallab's statements. These statements even go beyond what John Ashcroft was admonished for in the bungled Detroit terror case. [More...]

The suspect has talked to the FBI for hours in recent days, offering what sources say is valuable, sometimes chilling, intelligence.... Abdulmutallab has identified his handlers in Yemen, including the man who designed his underwear bomb, and given extensive details about his training.

...[Blair]reaffirmed today what officials have learned from Abdulmutallab and warned that al Qaeda's pool of suicide bombers may include U.S. citizens and that the terror group may be targeting U.S. nationals overseas for attack.

Blair insists there's no deal on the table for Private Underpants, which I don't believe for a second (it's more likely they just haven't given promised him a definitive number of years yet) but if it's true, Blair's statements are even more prejudicial and inexcusable.

Where's the judge and Abdulmatallab's lawyer? Someone needs to slap a gag order on this case now.

One other interesting tidbit:

FBI officials flew in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's mother and uncle from Nigeria last month to meet with the Christmas Day bombing suspect for 10 days, law enforcement sources said today.

...The terror suspect's family played a pivotal role in getting him to cooperate with federal authorities in sharing information about al Qaeda, according to senior administration officials.

Were they using them as a back-up plan hoping they had veto power, in case Abulmutallab's lawyer told him not to talk? All they have to do is tell a mother that her son will never see the light of day again if he doesn't 'fess up. Who is the kid bound to listen to, his lawyer he's known for a few days, or his mother?

As if that's not enough, we have Blair telling the House committee today that the U.S. can target and assassinate American citizens suspected of terrorism.

The director of national intelligence affirmed rather bluntly today that the U.S. intelligence community has authority to target American citizens for assassination if they present a direct terrorist threat to the United States.

"We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community; if … we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that," Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee.

..."Whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us, whether that American has -- is a threat to other Americans. Those are the factors involved."...According to U.S. officials, only a handful of Americans would be eligible for targeting by U.S. intelligence or military operations. The legal guidance is determined by the National Security Council and the Justice Department.

And Lindsay Graham introduced his bill today to prevent funding for the 9/11 trials. As the ACLU says:

This is a case of déjà vu, with the same senators introducing the same legislation that was rejected by the Senate less than three months ago. The Senate already rejected this proposal, and there is no reason to play out the same scenario over and over again. Congress should stop trying to interfere with criminal prosecutions and let experienced Justice Department prosecutors go forward with criminal trials of the alleged September 11 plotters. The U.S. has successfully tried and convicted more than 200 international defendants on terrorism crimes in federal courts. We see no reason for Congress not to dismiss these bills as easily as Senator Graham's amendment was dismissed last year."

A group of family members of 9/11 victims, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, also weighed in:

[We] support with vigor all efforts by the Obama administration to end military commissions, to convene federal trials, and to restore the rule of law in America. We specifically believe that everyone who is currently detained at Guantanamo should either be charged with a crime and tried in federal court or released. Under no circumstances do we believe that a policy of indefinite detention for anyone constitutes justice for the loved ones we have lost.

We are troubled that the Obama administration has not been able to deliver on its promises and that voices of hysteria and fear are shaping our judicial policies. We, too, hear the fear mongering, but we remain unafraid.

In the final analysis, our families paid the ultimate price. We lost loved ones to a horrific act of violence. We prefer not to lose the fabric of our nation, as well, to the fear generated by those who prefer retribution and revenge to truth and justice.

I don't think there are enough votes to pass a bill that bans funding of the federal criminal trials. If there are, I expect Obama to veto it. This is just Republican grand-standing and playing the politics of fear card, using Private Underpants as their springboard.

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    a point well taken. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by cpinva on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:41:58 PM EST
    AQ isn't organized in the same way, but I'd wager that guards outside of meetings still have ears, and using one of the chosen to guard a meeting might just be an honor to give to someone.

    that said, "private underpants" doesn't strike me as the guy the higher-ups want guarding their meeting, he'd end up shooting his foot off, or accidentally shooting them.

    I am so very, very sorry, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by itscookin on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 07:26:04 AM EST
    but when I saw this post headline, the first thing I thought of was "What's Britney Spears up to now?" I'll crawl back under my rock now.

    Expose it, don't ignore it (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 08:47:40 AM EST

    Sounds like more and more people are waking up to the fact that almost 100% of these so-called terror acts are false flag operations.

    MSM is complicit in them - which explains why most
    people fall for the lies every time.  The public just doesn't want to believe or know the truth about anything...except what celebrities are up to.
    Meantime, shareholders of co's in the military/security complex are lapping their lips over $10.00 martinis.

    When Dennis Blair makes the kind (none / 0) (#14)
    by Peter G on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 09:29:05 AM EST
    ... of outrageous (and frankly terrifying) statement that you quote below the jump in this post, TL -- claiming that US "intelligence" agencies may lawfully target for extrajudicial assassination a US citizen abroad who poses "a threat" -- it almost makes me think I should take the "false flag" theories of "truthers" like Y2T halfway seriously.  Blair said (according to the linked article) that the US would never target someone just for "opposing the government" or for "free speech," but given the Justice Department's rather elastic definition of what constitutes "material support" for a terrorist group I am not especially reassured. In fact, in that way, Blair's incredible statement may have significant adverse consequences to US credibility abroad, such as it is.

    Define "truther" (none / 0) (#19)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:16:45 AM EST

    Do you have some objection to people who want to know the truth, or are you using the term "truther"
    as an insult like most right wingers do?

    And, if you want to apply labels, which most applies to YOU:  "anti-truther", "UNtruther",
    "Don't Know, Won't Ask, Could Care Less"?


    Anyone can read my comments (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Peter G on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 11:53:30 AM EST
    to this blog, and yours (I mean any or all of them), and decide for themselves what kind of evidence and what style of reasoning each of us relies on to decide what we believe to be the "truth."  I will not debate you.

    Fine. And anyone can read this comment (none / 0) (#30)
    by Yes2Truth on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 01:52:45 PM EST

    People who label others as "truthers" are rightwingers who are trying to insult the person they've just labeled.

    Why would they do that?  Who knows.  Why does baloney reject the meat grinder?  They're probably
    trying to puff up their credentials as an


    Yes2Truth (none / 0) (#36)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 04:58:01 PM EST
    Your views are not compatible with the views of this site. You are getting close to being a chatterer. Feel free to express your opinion but do not attack, insult or bait other commenters and stay on topic. And don't chatter or blogclog. Thank you.

    Are We Strong Enough (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by bob h on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:28:16 AM EST
    even to deal with another half-assed attack like Detroit?  Whatever happens, the Republicans, abetted by Fox News, will use the occasion to launch another hyperbolic attack on Obama, and political system will be thrown into recriminations and our system of justice eroded.

    The Al Qaeda leaders know that even failed, small-scale attacks will pay big dividends for them, thanks to the cynicism of our right.

    I don't wanna rip the airlines... (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 03:21:46 PM EST
    How did a bunch of guys with box cutters get on a plane in the first place?

    How did a guy get on a plane with a hypodermic needle and a mixture that could be an explosive?

    I'm satisfied as writing stuff like that off as a cost of freedom...the only way to stop it close to 100% of the time (since true 100% is impossible no matter what) is to make flying unbearable.  And if we blame the airlines they will make it unbearable.  Lets blame the arseholes with the boxcutters and underwear...and deal with them in a way that doesn't cause us to make our everyday lives miserable.  

    I mean bottom line this is the human race...capable of nasty sh&t beyond the nastiest imagination like mass murder...and also capable of beautiful things beyond our wildest dreams...this is the world.

    It's interesting (2.00 / 0) (#23)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:35:58 AM EST
    That folks think it's only Republicans who are playing politics with this.

    Obama on 60 Minutes, March 23, 2009

    "One question about Dick Cheney and Guantanamo. I'm sure you wanna answer this," Kroft said. "A week ago Vice President Cheney said essentially that your willingness to shut down Guantanamo and to change the way prisoners are treated and interrogated was making America weaker and more vulnerable to another attack. And that the interrogation techniques that were used at Guantanamo were essential in preventing another attack against the United States."

    "I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly. You know, I think that Vice President Cheney has been at the head of a movement whose notion is somehow that we can't reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don't torture, with our national security interests. I think he's drawing the wrong lesson from history," Obama said.

    "The facts don't bear him out. I think he is, that attitude, that philosophy has done incredible damage to our image and position in the world. I mean, the fact of the matter is after all these years how many convictions actually came out of Guantanamo? How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn't made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment. Which means that there is constant effective recruitment of Arab fighters and Muslim fighters against U.S. interests all around the world," he added.

    "Some of it being organized by a few people who were released from Guantanamo," Kroft pointed out.

    "Well, there is no doubt that we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals that we've got to make sure are not a threat to us, who are folks that we just swept up. The whole premise of Guantanamo promoted by Vice President Cheney was that somehow the American system of justice was not up to the task of dealing with these terrorists. I fundamentally disagree with that. Now, do these folks deserve Miranda rights? Do they deserve to be treated like a shoplifter down the block? Of course not," Obama said.

    Asked what should be done with these people, Obama said, "Well, I think we're gonna have to figure out a mechanism to make sure that they not released and do us harm. But do so in a way that is consistent with both our traditions, sense of due process, international law. But this is the legacy that's been left behind. And, you know, I'm surprised that the vice president is eager to defend a legacy that was unsustainable. Let's assume that we didn't change these practices. How long are we gonna go? Are we gonna just keep on going until you know, the entire Muslim world and Arab world despises us? Do we think that's really gonna make us safer? I don't know a lot of thoughtful thinkers, liberal or conservative, who think that that was the right approach."

    My, how times and the political calendar can change a person's view....

    I put the whole quote on purpose (none / 0) (#26)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 11:01:25 AM EST
    So nice try accusing me of something I didn't do (once again).  

    The point was, Republicans aren't the only ones playing politics with this issue.  Anyone who says differently is naive or a fool.


    They idea that (none / 0) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:04:54 PM EST
    Private Underpants has anything more than vague ideas of what his AQAP buddies are planning strikes me as remote.  I just hope the U.S. intelligence people dealing with his statements have memorized the details of the Curveball fiasco.

    On the other hand, (none / 0) (#2)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:15:53 PM EST
    when I was in the Army, admittedly some time ago, when I wanted to find out what a unit was doing, not doing, or didn't want known, I'd ask a PFC or a Spec-4 what was going on. Maybe they weren't supposed to know, but often you'd find one who was scratching his derriere outside of an officers' or NCO's briefing.

    AQ isn't organized in the same way, but I'd wager that guards outside of meetings still have ears, and using one of the chosen to guard a meeting might just be an honor to give to someone.

    Just an alternative take.


    It's a good point (none / 0) (#4)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 12:47:09 AM EST
    but as you say, AQ isn't organized like the U.S. military, and this kid is pretty blatantly a horribly depressed and unhappy patsy whose misery they exploited.

    Sure, he might have overheard some fragments of stuff here and there, but I think it's pretty obvious he's no Radar O'Reilly.  My bet is they'd knock themselves out to keep him from knowing anything more than he absolutely needed to know, and furthermore fed him made-up tales to make him feel all tingly about being part of a great heroic struggle on the verge of victory over the Oppressor.

    From what we know of him, I frankly wouldn't take a word he said seriously without really, really good corroboration.


    I don't think it's just Republicans who (none / 0) (#5)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 07:09:35 AM EST
    are using the Man Who Wanted To Blow Up Christmas - I have a sense that the powers that be in National Intelligence are milking it pretty good, too: witness the testimony on Tuesday that they were 100% certain there would be an attempt to carry out a major terrorist attack within the next six months: we ARE going to be hit!  The media were positively breathless over that little tidbit; I heard a clip of Katie Couric who sounded as if she would have needed the fainting couch if she hadn't already been sitting down - and I'm sure that same demeanor was replicated by all the major media outlets.

    I've gotten to the point where I am extremely suspicious of pretty much everything I hear out of these people: are they getting ready to justify some new infringement of our rights?  Is a major - and generally illegal - surveillance program about to see the light of day?  Are they manipulating public opinion leading up to an election?  Are they just feeling like we aren't scared enough to be appropriately submissive and amenable to some draconian iniative that pushes their power over the edge?

    In the meantime, I guess Terror!  Terror!  Terror! is going to be the order of the day for the forseeable future; I'm pretty sure we aren't going to be able to watch the Super Bowl or the Olympics without getting a major dose of fear.

    I refuse to be manipulated or scared into submission.

    This is important (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by CST on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:32:19 AM EST
    "I refuse to be manipulated or scared into submission."

    And you shouldn't be.

    That being said, I have no reason not to believe there might be another attack.  Frankly, I'm kind of surprised we haven't had one already, although we did get lucky on Christmas.

    Isn't it kind of the new order of things?  The last few times there was a new president we got attacked.  I don't see why this time would be any different.

    Of course that doesn't mean we sit back and let our gov't destroy the country.


    I agree. the nation will face more attacks, (none / 0) (#35)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 03:27:03 PM EST
    the terrorists won't stop. It's also a matter of simple economics.

    All of the anti-terrorism dollars, the billions, or hundreds of billions of them, already spent, compared to, estimating here, a 2,000 dollar ticket and, at the most, 200 dollars of explosives.

    We the people have to make sure that our country and our constitution remains in effect. For us, and for the bomber who gets arrested. Erosion can be slow, or it can be fast. Let's do something to stop the erosion of rights and the Constitution.

    Fear means they were succesful. a mutated or damaged constitution means they were succesful.


    Maybe, but (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 07:32:08 AM EST
    Frankly, we have 200+ witnesses who saw this man attempt to blow up a plane over a Metro area - had he been successful, this potentially could have killed hundreds more on the ground. While the Republicans are grandstanding, those running around saying there's been "overreacting" are also wrong.  This is not a case of someone who stole a loaf of bread or knocked over a liquor store.

    Should we not be considering the fact that there's more to this story than just some young guy who thought it would be fun to blow up a plane on Christmas?  This is no lone wolf - there's much more behind this.  Should our government not look at that possibility?


    Oh, come on - I'm not saying that we (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 08:23:40 AM EST
    should ignore the Christmas Day incident, or that there doesn't need to be an investigation of the breakdowns on our end of things that allowed this man the opportunity to attempt to blow up the plane; certainly it needs to be determined if this guy was acting alone, or was part of something larger.  The man committed a crime; it needs to be investigated, just like any other crime.

    That being said, the government has shown a disturbing fondness for using these kinds of incidents to take major liberties with the law, using people's fears to justify going outside the bounds of existing law.  And while the Christmas Day attempt is real, let's remember how many times there have been these breathless announcements of "major" terrorist plots being disrupted that turned out to be a bunch of rag-tag wannabes who could probably not have terrorized their way out of a paper bag.

    I take it all with a grain of salt, not hand-sweating, heart-palpitating fear; I refuse to be distracted by what I have come to see as a psy-ops campaign to keep us all contained.  I refuse to be manipulated into being so afraid that I come to have an attitude of "do whatever you have to do to keep me safe, even if it means we pretend that we don't have a Constitution, or a Bill of Rights."

    We were manipulated into a war we didn't need to wage.  We have the USA Patriot Act.  We have FISA on steroids.  Telecom immunity for illegal surveillance.  Yes, we were attacked on our own shores, but fear has been used to make all these inroads into our basic freedoms and rights, and if you don't think they will use fear to keep doing that, you might want to think again.


    Source? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Peter G on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 09:16:20 AM EST
    LOL (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 11:50:42 AM EST
    Pretty sure hundreds of millions of people have said those words at some point in their lives. How silly to credit anyone as though it was something profound or insightful.

    Your point? (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 09:23:15 AM EST
    It's also part of the US Code in the definition of terrorism.

    2331. Definitions
    As used in this chapter--
    (1) the term "international terrorism" means activities that--
    (A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
    (B) appear to be intended--
    (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
    (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
    (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;

    I repeat - so what?

    I was IN the Detroit area when this happened.  People were pretty nervous for a few days, especially those of us who had to get on planes.  

    Again, this guy was not someone who just knocked over a liquor store....


    What if he had been? What if, instead (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:03:14 AM EST
    of him being on a plane with a bomb, he had been in the neighborhood liquor store and you were walking past, or over in aisle three looking at wine, when this guy tried to rob the store?

    You'd be afraid, you'd be freaked out, you'd be looking over your shoulder the next tine you went shopping - and so would everyone else in the area, or in the store at the time.

    The question is whether you allow your fear to make you more amenable to giving up your rights in the name of safety, if you become a do-whatever-you-have-to person.

    What do you suppose the effect is on people to have the heads of the major intelligence/law enforcement agencies tell a Senate committee that there is a 100% certainty of an attempted attack and that "we will be hit?"  They say this stuff, but of course, they can't disclose the details, so we just have to trust them - the same agencies that manipulated intelligence to take us to war.  

    I don't trust them - I don't trust their motives, their agenda or their honesty.  We've been played over and over again, and I don't have any reason to believe they aren't doing it again.  Not that the Christmas Day bomber isn't real, but that they will use it to a fare-thee-well for reasons other than keeping us safe.


    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:12:19 AM EST
    But then the oppostie attitude is the Pollyanna version - "We shouldn't listen to them" - but then, guess what happens next time there is an attack (and there WILL be a next time)?  People will be shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you and screaming "Why didn't we know about this?"

    I'm not arguing for more restrictions on our civil liberties, but I think this approach of sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling "Nyah, nyah, nyah - we can't hear you!" isn't working either.  

    There's got to be a middle ground.


    Here's the thing: I don't have a (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:55:03 AM EST
    top-secret security clearance that would give me access to the intelligence we are collecting, and even if I did, I would doubtless only see pieces and parts of it, with others fitting it together and making sense of it - if even that is possible, given the recent admission that there is so much data being collected they are having more trouble determining what is relevant and what is not.

    So, what do, I, as a private citizen, do?  Do I sit on the edge of my seat, waiting for intelligence and security officials to tell me what to be afraid of and when I should be most fearful?  Do I hang on the breathless words of the media to tell me what I should know?  How can people live like that?

    Do I tune it all out and pretend that I live in a risk-free world?  If only I could...

    The truth is that there is, as there as always been, danger everywhere.  Every time I get in the car, I have to think about protecting myself from the lunatics on the road.  When I go shopping, I try to park in more populated areas, under the lights, protect my purse, stay aware of the people around and near me, have my keys out and ready to unlock the car.  I don't give out personal information on the phone, or online, to people I don't know.  We shred our mail.  

    And I will keep doing those things because what else can I do?  And how will having the intelligence agencies and the media and even those over-the-highway electronic signs shouting "Terror!  Danger!" at me all the time make me any safer?  At some point, I have to acknowledge that there are some things I just have no control over - and if these agencies are doing their jobs, maybe that will keep us safe; if they're not, what would I be able to do about it?

    That's my happy medium-middle ground; this might not work for others, but it works for me.


    It's not about fear overrunning us (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 10:02:24 AM EST
    Yes, some in Congress and the media are running around with their hair on fire.  But others wnat to treat this guy as if he's a common criminal. There is nothing "common" about him or about this act - period.  But I also find it hard to believe that most people don't stop and think twice about the dangers when they board a plane.

    I have no problem with doing all we can to "follow the money" and find out what connections this guy had to set him up to undertake this and going after those people too. And yes, I think Congress and the administration should somehow be involved - this is not just an effort for the local PD and FBI field office.


    Follow the money (none / 0) (#11)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 09:02:10 AM EST
    Oh course the hawks are going to make hay out of this. The country is supposedly broke and yet if you read the new budget proposals you'd never know it.

    It's important for them to overblow everything at a time when the American public might start to question the costs and wastes incurred.

    I know I'm a cynic, but I really have to wonder if it isn't more about the money, than it is about the security. It's too easy for them to wrap up all their slush in the American flag. How can you question the budget when you're life is at risk!

    Lenny Bruce (none / 0) (#32)
    by lentinel on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 02:51:15 PM EST
    told of being in court one day.
    He had been arrested for using the word "c-cks-cker" in his act.
    Telling the story, he called it "blahblahblah".

    Then he noticed that the prosecuting attorney would say, "You mean he said "blahblahblah"?

    Then the Judge said, "Yes. He said "blahblahblah"...

    Lenny Bruce noticed that the word was circling the courtroom.
    Everybody was enjoying saying, "blahblahblah".

    I notice the same phenomenon with this "underpants" guy.

    Everybody seems to like to say it.

    Terror and safety (none / 0) (#33)
    by lentinel on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 03:08:23 PM EST
    Terrorism may or may not have been the motive of this Christmas Day incident. Whatever his motive, the fundamental fact is the airline let this guy on the plane.

    How did a bunch of guys with box cutters get on a plane in the first place?

    How did a guy get on a plane with a hypodermic needle and a mixture that could be an explosive?

    Supposing the motive was to kill a rich Auntie so that a family member could inherit her fortune?

    Supposing some guy wanted to off himself in a manner that he thought would be spectacular.

    Hijacking of planes has been going on for at least 5 decades.

    The best the airlines came up with was to ask, "Did anybody give you a package to take on board? No? OK.