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Holder letter: why we read Christmas Day bomber his rights

In a letter to Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, Attorney General Eric Holder defended his decision to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant, not an enemy combatant.

In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington. Holder said Wednesday, he made the decision to charge the Christmas Day terror suspect in civilian court rather than the military system.

Alex Brandon / AP / File

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Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday strongly defended his decision to treat alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant rather than turn him over to the US military as an enemy combatant.

In a five-page letter to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Holder took sole responsibility for the decision to keep Mr. Abdulmutallab within the criminal justice system. He also defended the decision to issue Miranda warnings to the suspect.

Senator McConnell and other Republicans have said that advising a terror suspect of his right to remain silent and consult a lawyer undercuts the ability to obtain critical intelligence information that might prevent a terror attack.

Holder rejected that notion. “The widespread experience of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, is that many defendants will talk and cooperate with law enforcement agents after being informed of their right to remain silent,” he wrote.

Rift over antiterror policies

Holder’s response is likely to turn up the heat in an intensifying confrontation between Republicans in Congress and the White House over the future direction of US antiterror policies.

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