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. Tammy in Arizona

    While Obama has been dealing with the economy, unemployment and the other garbage he inherited...he probably felt confident that the national security plans the REPULICANS put in place were sufficiant...for now
    Obviously not.

    January 10, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Tony in Maine

    Joe – you have a high paying job awaiting you on K St. Your buddies in the health insurance cartel will see that you continue to lead the good life.

    Capt. McCain. You never made admiral as did your father and grandfather because you just aren't that smart. Witness the location of your brain when you picked Palin.

    January 10, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  3. Intelligence failure was picking Palin as VP

    Albert K gets four stars

    That was a whopper of an intelligence failure on McCain's part that could have had VERY severe consequences, had he won the election. Having 'Caribou Barbie' in the white house would be more dangerous than any terror plot.

    January 10, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. Jane

    Speaking out against the president and his administration are protected under the 1st admendment. Anyone on this blog who states people need to be charged with "anti-Americanism" needs an education on what constitutional rights American’s have. It was ok for people to slam any of the previous president's but no okay with this one. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    January 10, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. charlie in Maine

    Message to Tim Kaine: Please oh please get us one more real Democrat in the Senate so we don't have to mend our policies to appease that traitor liberman.

    January 10, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  6. Marion

    That would be one republican and one independant (who caucuses with democrats). The independant being the key, the vote, to overcoming filibusters in the senate. How about accurate reporting? Or, has your reporting being as messed up as your website makeover?

    January 10, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. Ruti

    I did not know that Lieberman and McCain were saints. Thanks for clearing that up. Next, lets do a check under their shirts to see if they are sprouting wings.

    January 10, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. charlestaggart

    If accountability is key, then maybe we should bring those who have been accountable in past mistakes for wrong doing/s over the last say, "Ten years"...

    January 10, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. Marion

    CNN, please note when you revise your stories and/or make corrections thank you. You have apparently revised this story. Yet, you make no mention of the same.

    January 10, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Emma

    All of Obama's action following the incident are actions of accountability.
    Obama could not possibly have known there would be a slip in the security process. Is it that McCain and his buddy Lieberman want heads to roll? BTW, Mr. McCain, why have you not shared your knowledge of how to find Bin Laden with the current administration? It seems you were not understanding that Bin Laden is only one person of a huge network of terrorists, many of whom have as much or more power than
    the man who was once the head guy.

    January 10, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  11. Jean Moore

    I always watch CNN but for John King to put Lynn Cheney on this morning and them smirk about it as she does not give Donna a chance to speak about her views while Cheney (Lynn) tell point blank untruths and is never crossed examined makes my blood boil.

    Your show needs to not worry about ratings but about pulling the people together in this country with real and honest debates.

    I will not watch your show again!!!X

    January 10, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. Mike

    The old saying "Actions speak louder than words" applies here.

    January 10, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. Mike from Pelosiland

    Ahh yes, more of CNN's "objective" yellow journalism (or is it stupidity?) this morning. It's fun to watch the extreme left nut-jobs squirm over Joe Lieberman. Branding him as a "Republican" is actually pretty funny and says more about the extreme left and CNN than it does about Lieberman. What a bunch of morons.

    January 10, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. Libertarian

    and we're expected to take strategy and intelligence advice from the man who picked picked Palin? LOL

    January 10, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. Lori in Texas

    What a pair of horses arses. Talk about embolding our enemies.... why don't tweedle dum and tweedle dumber get with the program and support our President by announcing to the world that ALL Americans have joined together to fight our enemies.

    Continuing to put Party Before Country makes our enemies laugh at us. And makes us less safe.

    January 10, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. RH

    NOW you want accountability for intelligence failures?!?!?

    January 10, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. manny

    Is it insanity or over use of mind altering drugs that cause the CNNist here to slobber over Obama and other Marxist thugs? Joe and John are doing quite fine and will have history smile upon them.

    January 10, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. manny

    Dear Emma – the issue is not accountability on obama' s part, the issue is his sympathy and support for Islamic terrorists. He is submerged in the anti-American culture of Alinskyism and is just one more misstep from going to prison for life for high treason.

    January 10, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. catmomtx

    I find it very interesting how Republicans and Lieberman continue to jump up and down and pontificate about holding someone accountable for the intelligence failures on this failed terrorist attack on Christmas day. I just wonder WHO was held accountable for the intelligence failures that occurred on 9/11 and the numerous other attacks on the United States under George Bush?

    How about McCain, Lieberman and the Republicans come together and support our President. How about McCain, Lieberman and Republicans stop trying to blame President Obama and demand someone in his administration be held accountable and fired just so they can use that in a campaign ad. How about McCain, Lieberman and the Republicans stop using fear, scare and smear to manipulate those gullible people who they are trying to use to get back in power. Republicans, YOU DID NOT KEEP America safe. Your talking heads, Perino, Matalin and Giuliani coming out and misspeaking about no terrorists attacks under George Bush won't work.

    If Republicans have something to offer, why don't they talk to the President rather than attacking him, vilifying him and condemning everything he does even when it is no different than our previous "war" President? They don't have solutions. They just want to use fear, scare and smear to make people vote them back into power. How about considering that all of this started on their watch. They did not get the person who started this, they started a war based on lies and didn't have a thing to do with the terrorist attack. They financially ruined the economy, the jobs and housing markets. They did nothing to help the middle class or the poor but they sure did use fear and scare to keep gullible people in line and they continue to use it today.

    January 10, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. kathy

    If I recall there were over 3,000 civilians murdered under the Bush administration as well as over 4000 troops for fighting in Iraq instead of in Afghanistan which is where we should have been in the first place.
    Where is there accountablity? What a bunch of hypocrites.

    January 10, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Clint, Wa.

    Neither one of these two have any intelligence, so how could they want accountability.

    January 10, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. kenneth boudreau

    our best bet is they both retire.

    January 10, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  23. manny

    If we had "accountability" for intelligence failures Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright would have gone to the gallows years ago.

    January 10, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. Tammy

    Intelligence and McCain, Lieberman and Palin in one thought? Oxymorons?

    January 10, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Theres plenty of blame to go around starting with people crying profiling because of there Muslim belief maybe the Muslim's need to get a grip on the real world there kind are the ones that the world is at war with so pull your scarf off your face and get ready to be searched or else move back to the middle east and stay there.

    January 10, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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