As Mumbai terror plot accused David Coleman Headley pleaded not-guilty during an arraignment in Chicago, he could become the centrepiece of a debate on how to treat terror suspects in the US.
Headley, who was presented before US Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys on Wednesday morning, expectedly entered a plea of not guilty to all the 12 counts of indictment against him.
Just one day before the arraignment former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino used his case to challenge the Obama administration's strategy to deal with such cases. The main point of contention of President Barack Obama's detractors and critics is that in such cases it makes no sense to treat suspects as criminal defendants.
Citing the Obama administration's supposed argument Perino and Bill Burck, a former federal prosecutor and deputy counsel to president Bush, wrote in the National Review Online: "Most recently, David Headley, who has been indicted in Chicago for helping plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has given us information of enormous intelligence value."
The two then countered it saying: "So the Justice Department has cut a deal with Headley to get him to talk. It will be interesting to see how much prison time will be shaved off for his cooperation. We'll find out after he pleads guilty and is sentenced. Headley's deal might give us a preview of how much time the Justice Department is contemplating for Abdulmutallab: 50 years? 20? Two?"
The reference to Abdulmutallab is about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian who nearly blew up a Delta jet on Dec 25 flying in from Amsterdam.
Perino's mention of Headley is part of a larger piece titled "Obfuscation after obfuscation" that wonders whether the Obama administration's statement on Abdulmutallab's interrogation hides more than it reveals.
It is critical of the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant "with Miranda rights, a decision we now know was made without consulting the intelligence services whose job it is to protect the country from attacks".