January 10th, 2010
10:33 AM ET
8 years ago

McCain, Lieberman want accountability for intelligence failures

Washington (CNN) – Just days after President Obama took personal responsibility for the intelligence failures that allowed a 23-year-old Nigerian to board a U.S. bound airliner, allegedly with explosive material hidden under his clothes, two prominent senators suggested Obama has not done enough to impose accountability within his administration.

Announcing the preliminary results of his administration’s review of the failures leading up to the foiled December 25 attack, Obama said Thursday: "I will hold my staff, our agencies and the people in them accountable when they fail to perform their responsibilities at the highest levels." But, the president declared, "ultimately, the buck stops with me."

On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, both said that was not enough.

“I think some people have to be held accountable for the mistakes – for the human errors – that the president acknowledged that were made that enabled that Nigerian terrorist to get on that plane to Detroit and we’ve got to change some things in the system,” Lieberman told King.

The suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to blow up the Detroit-bound plane.

Asked specifically who should be held accountable, Lieberman suggested the State Department for its failure to determine that AbdulMutallab had a visa to enter the United States and to pull that visa once AbdulMutallab’s father raised concerns about his son.

“Secondly, at the National Counter-Terrorism Center, something went wrong,” the Connecticut senator also said Sunday. “That’s the place we created after 9/11. It’s served us very well but it did not in this case. So, if human errors were made, I think some of the humans that made those errors have to be disciplined so that [the errors] never happen again.”

Lieberman’s comments were echoed by Obama’s former rival for the Oval Office Sen. John McCain.

“People should be held responsible for what happened,” McCain also said Sunday on State of the Union. “And we can’t go back to the old Washington kind of routine: we’re all responsible so, therefore, no one is responsible. Someone’s got to be held responsible,” McCain told King, taking an apparent dig at Obama’s “the-buck-stops-with-me” approach to accountability.

In the declassified summary of the Obama administration’s review of the intelligence community’s failures surrounding AbdulMutallab alleged plot, the nation’s counterterrorism apparatus was faulted for failing “before December 25 to identify, correlate, and fuse into a coherent story all of the discrete pieces of intelligence" that the U.S. government had in hand about "the emerging terrorist plot."

The summary released Thursday also said "the overlapping layers of protection within the [counterterrorism] community failed to track this threat in a manner sufficient to ensure all leads were followed and acted upon to conclusion."

And, according to the summary, there were also a series of human errors which "delayed dissemination of a finished intelligence report and what appears to be incomplete/faulty database searches on Mr. Abdulmutallab's name and identifying information."

In response to the findings, Obama has ordered a number of changes throughout the intelligence community intended to correct the weaknesses and errors found in the review. But, thus far, Obama has not said he will discipline or terminate anyone for the community’s failure to “connect the dots” about the December 25 plot.

Udpated: 11:15 a.m.

soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. D. Tree

    The underwear bomber was allowed to board a plane to the US in Amsterdam – if these guys want to reform the system, they should get on board with Obama's plan to increase intelligence sharing between foreign agencies, and they should do more to make sure airports are fully funded and staffed as per the 9/11 Commission's recommendations!

    January 10, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Jaxson

    McCain is such a foolish man.

    January 10, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. Zaley

    Why didn't McCain ask George Bush for accountability???? (McCain just kissed and hugged him instead).

    January 10, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. Lexie30

    Republicans will be the downfall of America.

    January 10, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. Jerry in NC

    Yeah, and people in Hell want ice water! Joe and John, go play in traffic!

    January 10, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. LacrosseMom

    Yes, McCain & LIEberman, we TOO want accountability for the FACT that during the Bush Regime, George W. Bush, ignored our Constitution and the Laws of our Nation to torture POW's!

    When Bush & DICK are held accountable for their lawlessness, then you can make demands!

    January 10, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. ICARE

    We made a mistake of invading Iraq and there was absolutely no accountability. In fact, we spent a $1 trillion for it and no one said anything about it.

    Bottomline, this is a Work In Progress problem. There are rooms for improvements. If Obama and the rest of the crew sat there and didnt do anything, I WILL be really worried, but THEY IMMEDIATELY took actions.

    We ARE OKAY..... It's a work-in-progress... and if you dont like it, then we will have to go to war with every Islamic State and force their governmetns to crack down on extremists.

    Turkey cracked down on extremists and now it is a secular Muslim-state.

    So relax.

    January 10, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
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