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. Joan

    Birds of a feather cling together. These two are laughable. As an Arizona resident hopefully McCain will be replaced in the next election if there is any justice. He is pathetic. All he knows how to do is criticize the President. He does absolutely nothing for Arizona. Imagine 40,000 Americans die every year because they don't have health insurance and all McCain can do is say "NO" to help them. Have mercy!


    January 10, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Jim in Phoenix

    Although I agree that someone should be held accountable, especially at the operational level, I cant help but marvel at the hutzpah of Lieberman and McCain. The party of NO and their lapdog taking shots at someone else for not doing anything?? Right....

    January 10, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. JonDie

    From 2001 to 2009, there was nothing but failures on all fronts, yet neither McCain nor Lieberman ever once asked for accountability from Bush...not even once.

    January 10, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  4. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    Why isn't the press all over the fact that Obama and his cohorts of liberal traitors in congress cut the budget for the National Counterterrorism Center, the very organization that 'connects the dots'. OF COURSE Obama is to blame. So is every member of Congress who voted for the budget cut.

    If we are truly at war with Al Queda as Obama FINALLY admits, why aren't we trying the bomber as an enemy combatant instead of in the same court system as purse snatchers?

    January 10, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. Jenn, Philadelphia

    3 people breach the White House security and get in the same room as the President, a few days ago a man barred from getting the Health and Human Services building gets all the way to the outer office of Kathleen Sebelius (who, thankfully wasn't in) and they want us to believe they're capable of keeping this country safe. Sorry, but my confidence in this Administrations abilities are shaky.

    January 10, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. Ben Alcobra

    Mike, from Syracuse says: "why isn't the press all over the fact that Obama and his cohorts of liberal traitors in congress cut the budget for the National Counterterrorism Center..." Probably for the same reason that the press wasn't all over W. and his cohorts of conservative traitors in congress for not doing anything to prevent the Shoe Bomber incident. Exactly the same kind of incident, exactly the same kind of response. Remember, Mike: Fair and Balanced.

    January 10, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. Jim

    How many people were held accountable for 911?

    How many people were held accountable for Richard Reid?

    How many people were held accountable for the intelligence failures around the WMD's in Iraq?

    How many people were held accountable for the intelligence failures around in Afganistan that allowed Bin Laden to escape?

    How many people were held accountable for the defence contractors like Halliburtan raiding the US Treasury and steeling from the American Taxpayer?

    How may people were held accountable for the Katrina falures?

    God help America. These people always chose party, power and money over country and the American people.

    January 10, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. Ray

    The sad fact of the times that we live in is that Republicans are praying for a terrorist attack on the U.S. so they can use it to make political points. Who in the Bush administration stepped forward and took the blame for the 9/11 attacks? Who was held accountable then?

    January 10, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  9. Keeth in California

    Where was the loud screaming for accountability during the Bush admin when they had 7 years to get the TSA and the intelligence communities on track? When Bush screws up, it's ok. When Obama screws up, it's the end of the world. GOP = Got 0 Plans.

    January 10, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. A. Smith, Oregon

    It appears that the CIA deliberately blocked information from being relayed to the TSA who would have immediately blocked the Nigerian Muslim bomber from boarding any flight to America.

    This likely resulted from President Obama shutting down all of the CIA secret prisons around the world even thou all former CIA directors warned President Obama there would be consequences if he did so.

    There appears to be CIA officials that remain loyal to former VP Dick Cheney who are working and acting in a manner which would result in a sizable failure by the Obama administration and prevent him from pulling out of both wars and minimizing America's military spending overseas.

    During former President John F. Kennedy's Administration, a power vacuum occurred between the Executive Branch and the CIA which resulted in a great deal of problems which did not all end up in a positive manner for then President Kennedy. I hope the same does not occur in the Obama Administration.

    President Obama should choose to fire all CIA officials that remain loyal to former VP Dick Cheney immediately.

    January 10, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. rm

    a fool get's on a plane in Nigeria, you know where Sharia law rules in the North and a country that is currently at war with itself, and gets on a plane in Amsterdam...and this is a failure of the U.S. ? Sounds like a Bush/Cheney connect the dots effort...the right's version of 'intelligence'...

    January 10, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. NotFooledTX

    Just a question...

    Who was held accountable for the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks?

    Who failed to "connect the dots"? They were surely there. They had information presented to the President that warned of bin ladens plans to attack in the US. The suspicions on the flight training in MN were brought to light. And more. But who ultimately failed? Someone did, the attack happened.

    Who accepted responsiblity for the failures?

    Just wondering.

    January 10, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. Randy, San Francisco

    These two political hacks never demanded accountability from the Bush-Cheney administration for falsifying intelligence on Iraq.

    January 10, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. JP

    Wouldn't accountability be somewhere near the bottom of the food chain? As in, the airport security workers who let this guy through? This has nothing to do with upper management.

    January 10, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  15. tmart

    The breech was the failure of policy, systems, and humans all. Accountability needs to become an established part of the system, and that is what should be worked on: a SYSTEM of accountability. Leib and Mc should focus on helping create a better system rather than try to find some individual(s) to blame for this recent incident.

    January 10, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. RTB

    Ho hum and side kick are pronouncing their proclamation that it isn't enough?
    Did these two idiots escape from their tutoring class with chairman Steele?
    Come election time put the twins out to pasture.

    January 10, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. phillip Marlowe

    Hey Joe what about your flip flop on the health insurance plan after the big donation from the insurance industry. Once you were all for the public option then absolutely against, shortly after that donation. You are what's wrong and why don't you tale action for the improvement of America by resigning?

    January 10, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. Treise NY

    Let me understand , McCain;s ad states I stand in the President way everyday .. Oh by the way Mr President Liebermann and I are holding you accountable. No Mr. President I don't want to help you in anyway, just hold you accountable. And since I'm determined to stand in your way everyday to ENSURE you make no progress Mr President you should listen to me and do as I say only then maybe you'll get it right. Oh and while Liebermann and I are at it we'll go oversea and while get interviewed on CNN by John King so all of our overseas ememies are watching that hate us can see how we don't back our President. No unity in a time of Crisis even the worst families show unity in time of crisis.
    Talk about compromising our security McCain and Liebermann. I watched this interview this morning , it was ok , in time of crisis we have a very sad pool of "journalists" John King I really thought you would bring OBJECTIVITY .

    January 10, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  19. Mickey

    And the rest of the citizens of this country want an investigation into the "intelligence failures" of the Republican/Conservative politicians, especially these two twits.

    January 10, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  20. valwayne

    The person responsible for pretending the war on terror was over and who spent a year dismantling the protections put into place at such cost afer 9/11 sits in the Oval Office. The person responsible for attacking the intellegents agents/services that kept us safe after 9/11 sits in the Oval Office. The person who hired our inept press secretary Gibbs and Homeland Security head Napolitano who gave us "The System Worked" sits in the Oval Office. The man who saw to hit that the Underwear Bomber terrorist was read his Miranda rights and given a lawyer rather than inerrogated for information to save American lives sits in the oval office. How do we hold him accountable? How will Senators McCain and Lieberman hold him accountable?

    January 10, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  21. Gary

    Jane January 10th, 2010 11:11 am ET

    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.

    Hey Jane, try telling that hypocritical nonsence to the Dixie Chicks

    January 10, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. Doyle Wiley, MI

    I would prefer we send our time on ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

    January 10, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. Hugo

    I guess Obama finally figured out we are at war with Al Qaeda?? Hey America, when was the last time you saw anyone in politics or public office held accountable?

    January 10, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  24. Keith in Austin

    @Get Real:

    I find it quite hypocritical that you scold the GOP for criticizing Obarry in a time of war.

    Surely your warped pea-sized libby brain can remember the vicious attacks you and yours bestowed on former President Bush! I'm sure it's just a convenient memory lapse, right?

    I hope you're never on a hijacked plane with Janet Napolitano as the sky marshall. Your political view of this weak novice we call a President would turn overnight!

    January 10, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  25. Jay


    January 10, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5