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Should Abdulmutallab be Tried in a Civilian Court?

There's a growing debate over whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of trying to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day, should be tried in civilian court, or treated as a military prisoner. The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung reports:

President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser on Sunday defended the administration's decision to try in federal court the man charged with attempting to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day and indicated that he would be offered a plea agreement to persuade him to reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda operations in Yemen.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with the failed attempt on the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, was initially "talking to people who detained him" but now has a public defender and "doesn't have to," John O. Brennan said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We have different ways of obtaining information from individuals" in the criminal-justice process, Brennan said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "A lot of people . . . understand what they're facing, and their lawyers recognize that there is advantage to talking to us in terms of plea agreements, [and] we're going to pursue that." Brennan told CNN's "State of the Union" that other terrorism suspects have "given us very valuable information as they've gone through the plea-agreement process."

Brennan's tour of the talk shows -- he also appeared on ABC's "This Week" -- came as the administration tried to counter, and move out in front of, widespread criticism of intelligence systems that did not identify Abdulmutallab as an al-Qaeda operative or detect the explosive he was allegedly carrying before he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Much of the criticism Sunday, however, centered on the decision to try him in civilian court rather than hold him as a military prisoner. "If we had treated this Christmas Day bomber as a terrorist, he would have immediately been interrogated military-style, rather than given the rights of an American and lawyers," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said on CNN. "We probably lost valuable information."

Abdulmutallab is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Fri. Jan. 8.

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