04/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Facts Get in the Way of Conservatives' Abdulmuttalab Scare Story

The revelation that Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas Day underwear bomber, has been cooperating with authorities and providing valuable information "for days" demonstrates how irresponsible and ill-informed many conservatives have been in attacking President Obama's handling of the incident. Using the tough, proven criminal system is producing results, while the conservatives' preferred alternative -- the incommunicado detention of Jose Padilla under the Bush administration -- failed utterly to deliver reliable intelligence.

Conservatives have attacked the decision to charge Abdulmutallab in federal criminal court and give him access to an attorney. Critics like Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Rudy Giuliani went on the attack from the get-go, but they were recently joined by former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Gen. Hayden took to the pages of the Washington Post on January 31 to claim, "We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him." Sen. Collins delivered the Republican weekly address the day before and castigated "the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab's interrogation."

It's terrible when the facts get in the way of a good story.

As we now know, far from being wrong, irresponsible, or dangerous, the path the Obama administration chose for the interrogation of Abdulmutallab is directly responsible for his cooperating with intelligence officials and giving up fresh and actionable intelligence. Abdulmutallab's family worked with U.S. government officials to encourage him to cooperate, and so, according to them, "because they had complete trust in the US system of justice and believed that Umar Farouq would be treated fairly and appropriately."

The intelligence gained from Abdulmutallab has been shared widely throughout the intelligence community -- and has already produced results. On January 21, Malaysian counterterrorism authorities arrested 10 suspected terrorists tied to Abdulmutallab. The suspected cell was made up of mostly non-Malaysians, including two Nigerians who were thought to be part of an international terrorist network.

So by the time Collins and Hayden attacked the Obama administration's handling of Abdulmutallab's interrogation, it had already produced actionable intelligence that allowed an allied government to break up a suspected terrorist cell.

But that's not all that's wrong with their argument.

Read the rest at the Wonk Room.