Defense Secretary Robert Gates declined to say Tuesday whether he thinks it's appropriate to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York civilian court not far from the site of the attack.
When Sen. John McCain prodded Gates to reveal whether he agreed with Attorney General Eric Holder's choice on prosecution strategy, he replied that he thought Holder was better suited to make that decision.
The Arizona Republican also pressed Gates at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to say whether he agreed with the Obama administration's decision to question the suspect in an attempted U.S. airliner bombing for only 50 minutes, with civilian interrogators, before reading the man his Miranda right to remain silent.
"I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place" to assure their presence, he said, adding, "I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual."
McCain asked Gates whether he agreed with National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair's assessment that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.
"I'm just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator," Gates replied.
McCain said Holder "has obviously botched this thing very, very badly" and said he would continue to question how the man's interrogation was handled.
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