Kyl: Intelligence Lost by Abdulmutallab Indictment

Suspected airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (FNC)

Suspected airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (FNC)

The federal government missed a real opportunity to get intelligence from Christmas Day accused bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab because authorities indicted him while he was still talking, a Republican lawmaker said Sunday.

Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody for about 30 hours before he claimed a lawyer and clammed up.

"When you indict him, you immediately read him his Miranda rights, you give him a lawyer and he stops talking," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Sunday. "You can pursue a court action against this person later on if you want to, but right now the key thing is intelligence."

Kyl joined 21 Republicans in sending a letter to President Obama on Friday night urging him to try the alleged underwear bomber in front of a military tribunal instead of a civilian court. 

But Democrats say intelligence officials got what they needed from Abdulmutallab, who failed in his attempt to detonate an explosive during a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. 

"They obtained actionable intelligence and they made a decision after that -- the local prosecutors -- that the individual should be tried in civil court," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told "Fox News Sunday."

Reed added that the Bush administration successfully indicted many terrorists, including shoe-bomber Richard Reid, whose attempted attack mirrors Abdulmutallab's in several ways.

"We have charged and, in many cases, convicted hundreds of individuals since 9/11 in our civil courts as criminals. And I think one -- and it's an effective way to seek justice," Reed said, adding that, using the civilian court system "takes away the aura that the Al Qaeda elements try to project, that these are soldiers."

But Kyl said if the president says the U.S. is at war with Al Qaeda, it should act like it. 

"When the president says, 'we are at war,' what he needs to do is back that up with a sense of urgency and instruct the people that work for him that they've got to treat this like a war, including gathering all the intelligence you can gather, and that means questioning people such as the Christmas bomber over Detroit," he said. 

"I don't think the president's action matched his rhetoric when we send this individual to a civilian court. That person should be tried as an enemy combatant, he's a terrorist," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CNN. "And if we are at war, then we certainly should not be trying that individual in a court other than a military trial. To have a person be able to get lawyered up when we need that information very badly, I think betrays or contradicts the president's view that we are at war."

Abdulmutallab got his terror training in Yemen, say intelligence officials, and that has become the new focus for counterterrorism officials. The United States and Britain recently announced they're sending money toward a counterterror police force that has begun training there. 

Yemen is desperately poor despite being neighbors to oil-rich Arab nations. The Yemeni government is unstable, facing potential civil war. Sen. Joe Lieberman said three cases relating to terror attacks in the United States -- the Arkansas recruiting office attack, the Fort Hood shooter and the Detroit bomber -- are all tied together because of Yemen. 

"They all three of those have a connection to Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, which is headquartered in Yemen," Lieberman said, pointing to "human errors" at the National Counterterrorism Center, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security in the handling of Abdulmutallab. 

Lieberman said he believes some of the humans who made those errors have to be disciplined so that they never happen again.

Fox News' Caroline Shively contributed to this report.