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Fact check: Palin’s claims in Tea Party speech debunked

By Sahil Kapur
Monday, February 8, 2010 12:13 EDT
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WASHINGTON — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lauded the virtues of the Constitution in her Tea Party Convention speech Saturday, but some of her claims appear markedly flawed. Reports over the weekend also challenged her account of recent history on national security and terrorism.

In her speech, Palin made numerous claims related to Obama, the constitution and terrorism.

“The [constitutional] protections provided,” Palin said, “we’re going to bestow them on a terrorist who hates our Constitution and wants to destroy our Constitution and our country? This makes no sense because we have a choice in how we’re going to deal with the terrorists.”

But a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, declared that alleged terrorists who aren’t convicted of a crime — irrespective of their citizenship — have the constitutional right to have their case heard in federal court.

The case declared unconstitutional some of the Bush administration’s decisions to strip rights from those who are designated enemy combatants by the Executive Branch.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said such actions fail to meet “the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus” guaranteed in the constitution, as the New York Times reported.

Referring to Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Palin said “[T]here are questions we would have liked this foreign terrorist to answer because he lawyered up and invoked our U.S. Constitutional right to remain silent. Our U.S. Constitutional rights.”

“He was questioned for only 50 minutes,” she added. “We have a choice in how to do this. The choice was only question him for 50 minutes and then read his Miranda rights.”

This too, appears to have been false.

Central to Palin’s claim was that this approach is failing as Abdulmutallab has refused to cooperate with authorities. But an FBI official informed Reuters last week 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.”

FBI director Robert Mueller added that “Abdulmutallab has provided valuable information” without being subject to harsh techniques, as the liberal watchdog Media Matters first noted.

“He has been cooperating for days,” one Obama administration official last week told the New York Times, which confirmed that authorities were extracting important information form the suspect.

In her speech, Palin said, “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?”

Reports reveal that such information has also been obtained by authorities despite not breaking the law. The Associated Press found that FBI agents interrogated Abdulmutallab in a hospital for “about an hour” with the following result:

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.

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff delivered the same news:

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.”

Palin also accused Obama of “politicizing our security” in part by using the word “war” insufficiently. “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.”

However, the Obama administration regularly uses the word “war.” Following the Christmas Day bombing, the president declared publicly, “We are at war” — clarifying, “we are at war with Al-Qaeda.” In the State of the Union, the president reportedly said the word seven times.

Palin also appeared to suggest Obama’s actions led to North Korea testing nuclear weapons.

“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?” she said. “North Korea tested nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles.”

But North Korea became recognized as a nuclear nation in October 2006, before Obama was elected president, when it tested its nuclear capabilities, as the New York Times points out.

 
 
 
 
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