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Suspect in plane bomb plot is reportedly cooperating again with authorities

The Nigerian man arrested on Christmas Day for allegedly trying to explode a bomb on a plane arriving in Detroit has begun talking again to authorities, officials said Tuesday, a development that is likely to ratchet up the debate over whether he should be tried in federal court or before a military tribunal.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirmed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had changed his mind and was speaking to federal agents again.

He talked to agents for about 50 minutes on the day of his arrest. Doctors interrupted the interrogation to sedate him and treat his injuries. When Abdulmutallab awakened, he stopped cooperating, officials said, and it was then that agents advised him of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination.

“My understanding is that he is cooperating,” Feinstein said.

Sources at the FBI declined to elaborate on what Abdulmutallab might be telling them or to weigh the value of his information, except to say, “We wouldn’t steer you away from” concluding that he is being cooperative.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III also confirmed with a curt “yes” that Abdulmutallab was talking.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee last month that the decision to read Abdulmutallab his rights was a mistake, but other officials contended that they had gotten as much intelligence as they were going to get from him. Abdulmutallab is a suspected member of the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda.

Republicans on Capitol Hill, who want Abdulmutallab and all other terrorism suspects to be confined and tried by military authorities at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say the fact that he is saying more to authorities shows that he never should have been read his rights and instead should have been shipped off to Cuba for secret interrogations.

Also on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators announced legislation to stop funding for any civilian trials of terrorism suspects, including the alleged Sept. 11 plotters, whom the administration had wanted to try in New York City. The senators want them tried before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the George W. Bush administration had tried more than 300 terrorism defendants in federal courts, while only three were prosecuted at military tribunals.

richard.serrano@ latimes.com

greg.miller@latimes.com


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