January 10th, 2010
10:33 AM ET
5 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. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    As to Joe and John, how on Earth did these two morons ever get elected?

    January 10, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    What a laugh...this from the same party as "Doin a great job there Brownie"

    January 10, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  3. kathy

    I'm curious – are McCain and Liebermann the only two people in the Senate who want accountability or is there some reason they are the only two whose names are being flaunted??? Is there anyone out there who really cares what these two want or is this just a CNN thing????

    January 10, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Ann

    When is someone(Conn. voters) going to hold droopy accountable for his errors that he has made throughout his years as a Senator??? Such a holier than thou droopy dog. This guy makes me sick everytime I see or hear him talk. When are the Republicans( oh! excuse, the Dems) going to bootjack his a$$ out of the Senate, it would be a happy day!!

    January 10, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  5. GI Joe

    If someone needs to lose their job, it's LIEbermand and McSongbird. These two loudmouth obstructionists need to retire.

    January 10, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. Tammy

    What about THEIR accountability?!

    January 10, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. Bob of Lompoc

    The people of Connecticut should be held responsible for electing Lieberman, this turncoat Senator from The State Of Israel and The State Of Hartford. Sometime, there will be a day of reckoning for this traitor. I see his popularity polls shop him in the dumpster. Not surprising. This always happens to those elected to serve "The People", and end up serving "The Corporation". It appears "The People" finally woke up.

    McCain? Lost on the Border Of Dementia. He "gave" us Palin. What more needs to be said.

    January 10, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  8. jeremy.....Dallas...Texas

    Arrest Bush and Cheny. They created those departments....period

    January 10, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  9. lani

    This is all just PR crap. None of the government's intelligence minions is ever held accountable. They are expected to be stupid, and they always oblige.

    January 10, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. mary mtl can

    Sure for Bush and Cheney sure why not

    January 10, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. reality check

    Thanks for the advise Joe and John. It's nice to know that America has two powerful Senators like yourselfs backing the President in this time of crisis. If he could be a little more shoot from the hip and a little less thoughtful in this time of war, maybe just maybe, we could return to the glory days of George W. Bush. When the U.S.of A was full of false barvado and short on thought out plans. Boy how I miss those day. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld now there's a team to make you feel safe.

    January 10, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. Joan

    Could you check to see who authorized John McCain and Lieberman to go on this extensive foreign affairs trip. Did the State Department send them? Did Pres. Obama send them? Did the Special Envoys to these countries endorse their trip or join them? McCain and Lieberman may have made the situation worse. Did these two really think they are credible and influential enough to go on this mission and then come back and give their ingenious opinions all over the airwaves? That is like watching the arsonists telling the firemen how to put out the fire. The last administration totally took their eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan, let Al Queda flourish under their noses all over the world, invaded a country illegally and unilaterally that had NOTHING to do with 911, almost bankrupted your country paying for that war and now think they have all the answers. The hypocracy is just ridiculous. Tweedledum and Tweedledee just want attention and unfortunately you and other media outlets are giving it to them. Why didn't you call them on all of the lies and errors in judgement they made over their eight years in power. Joe Lieberman is meaningless because he just changes with however the wind is blowing and has absolutely no credibility. If John McCain had been elected president can you imagine how many millions of times his image singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran" would have been played as propoganda in these countries? These two should stop show boating and quietly and intelligently support your President and your country at a time like this.

    January 10, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. Albert K. L.A., CA

    McCain, the guy who picked Palin as his VP, wants accountability for intelligence failures?

    January 10, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  14. John in Brooklyn

    Just a point of clarification. While we Democrats generally consider Joe Lieberman to be a Republican (and, in all ways other thna the "I" behind his name he, in fact, is) your article's lead paragraph makes note of "two leading Republicans". Considering the article is about John McCain and Joe Lieberman, I'd suggest you correct your first paragraph.

    January 10, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Senators: You NO longer matter to the American people.

    January 10, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Illinois 2

    To all the people that are responding to this and not mad that our president talks one way and does another should really be proud that he is not helping protect america when the problem for fixing this mess is on his shoulders and all the agencies that are their for this very purpose. If replacements need to be made to insure we have a stronger policy, then it is time to act before there is a another plane, train, plant, refinery, etc. blown up.
    The voters in the U.S. need to wake up and make our leaders accountable...

    January 10, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. Indy

    As long as McCain and Joe are held accountable for their anti American statements against the administration the President and all Americans. Hold yourselves accountable before asking the President to hold someone accountable.The biggest break down after the attack was the attack of the Republicans who piddled their pants on Christmas day and swept the country with speeches of fear and hate which is exactly what the terrorists wanted.The Republicans need to be held accountable for playing right into the terrorists hands by reacting like scared old fools and propelling the fear with treasoness statements to the liking of the terorists.

    January 10, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. ran

    Both Lieberman and McCain need to be accountable as well seeing they are in charge with Home land security as well. Where were they in all of this? They both are allowing members of the senate like DeMint to stone wall the confirmation of the nomination for the head of TSA.

    Hate/fear/obstructionism just does not help.

    January 10, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Barbara; IL

    McCain and Leiberman continue to believe their opinions matter!

    January 10, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. Don

    How does Liberman figure that punishing someone for a human error will prevent that, or a similar, error from occurring in the future? If that were the case, once someone had been punished for an error, that error would never happen again and pencils would no longer need erasers. Liberman has always been, and remains, a simpleton

    Nothing like having a dedicated incompetent in the Senate

    January 10, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. Lue Blacknell

    These 2 "clowns" need to be given a boot out of the senate. They are "earth disturbers"....they are serving no purpose-but to obstruct. Use a couple rolls of duct tape over their mouths-to silence them. They are sore losers!

    January 10, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. amt. CA

    Traitor Joe & McCan't from the party of"no" Why does Leiberman still have his chair position in the Senate? Everyone wants accountable & Pres Obama said so, & is doing a great job keeping us safe.

    January 10, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. Lilarose in Bandon, OR

    Lieberman collaborating with McCain is not a surprise.

    Lieberman is a turncoat from the Democratic Party.

    McCain is a brainless old man who needs to retire!

    Anytime now, McCain!

    Lieberman, I hope you get voted out of office.

    January 10, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  24. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    Quite something to hear them talk about accountability as Bush never took responsibility for attacks on the homeland and anyone fired under Bush for their big mistakes in securing the american people! I guess for these two representatives, the intelligence community has not suffered enough losses in recent times that they need to beat them over the heads even more and fire some just for a few politicians to make themselves beleive to themselves and to the american people that they are in control and more responsible...easy to beat on others when you are not the ones risking your own life every single day!

    January 10, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. shanglee

    Senator McCain you and Palin Lost. We need Accountability about your failure in Nam. You were not the only one who fought in V. Nam, others call you a hero. For What? You never mention others to service.

    January 10, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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