So, the crotch-bomber is now talking. Abdulmutallab, the inept (thank God; the real one, that is…) wanna-be terrorist, was read his rights shortly after capture last Christmas. And, natch, actual intel folks didn’t get a crack at him. After all, we are oh so civilized; we wouldn’t want to get the jihadis angry at us.
Intel from a captured enemy combatant who isn’t one of the leaders is like fish: only good when fresh. Chances are the boy wouldn’t have had much intel, only who his handlers were, where he trained, and what he might have been told by his superiors about future plans.
Once he was captured, it’s a pretty good bet that any terrorist locations and plans he might have known about would change. Pronto. Regardless, with a low-level punk, you lose most intel of value as soon as you treat him like a common criminal.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying: any who claim that “the system worked” (thanks Janet) is making a political, not analytical statement. The “system” in this instance is more accurately labeled an ideology: terrorism as a law enforcement problem. Not an intelligence and military problem.
Yes, law enforcement agencies have intel groups. Some, like my beloved NYPD, are better at it than the feds. But law enforcement intel is inherently schizo: it tries to prevent crime, but it serves a master whose ultimate goal is to convict criminals who are caught after they commit a crime.
Any intel we get from a captured terrorist is a good thing. But let’s not confuse stale information from a terror underling with anything that’s going to prevent the next attack. That train has long since left the station.