January 30th, 2010
11:44 AM ET
5 years ago

Republican slams Obama administration on terrorism


Washington (CNN) – A usually mild-mannered, moderate Northeastern Republican takes an aggressive stance Saturday as she delivers her party’s weekly Internet and radio address.

In her roughly five-minute address, Maine Sen. Susan Collins takes issue with how the Obama administration has chosen to treat Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused to trying to blow-up an American airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

“Less than one hour. That’s right, less than one hour,” Collins says in this week’s Republican address. “In fact, just fifty minutes. That’s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning AbdulMutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. Then, he was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking. How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?”

After noting a number of acknowledged failures on the part of the intelligence community relating to AbdulMutallab, Collins turns her attention to what she views as another misstep.

“But, today, I want to discuss another failure – a failure that occurred after AbdulMutallab had already been detained by authorities in Detroit – an error that undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country,” Collins says.

“Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist ‘lawyered up’ and stopped talking,” says Collins. “When the Obama administration decided to treat AbdulMutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation’s top intelligence officials.”

Collins suggests that critical information may never been learned because of the decision to advise AbdulMutallab that he has the same constitutional rights as American citizens, adding that the administration “appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the war on terrorism.”

“There’s no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on AbdulMutallab’s interrogation. There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal,” the Maine Republican says.

Collins is currently the Ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She was previously the committee’s chair.

Read the full text of Collins' remarks below:

“Less than one hour. That’s right, less than one hour.

“In fact, just fifty minutes.

“That’s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning Abdulmutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

“Then, he was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking.

“How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?

“On Christmas Day, the skies above Detroit became a battleground in the War on Terrorism.

“That day the bomb being carried by Abdulmutallab failed to detonate. Thanks to the courageous action of the passengers and crew, nearly 300 lives were saved on the plane and more lives were spared on the ground.

“The government’s security system, a front line in the war against terrorists, failed long before Abdulmutallab boarded his flight to the United States.

“It failed when his visa wasn’t revoked, even though his father had warned our embassy in Nigeria about his son’s ties to Islamic extremists.

“It failed when the intelligence community was unable to connect the dots that would have placed Abdulmutallab on the terrorist watchlist.

“It failed when this terrorist stepped on to the plane in Amsterdam with the same explosive used by the ‘Shoe Bomber,’ Richard Reid, more than 8 years ago.

“But, today, I want to discuss another failure – a failure that occurred after Abdulmutallab had already been detained by authorities in Detroit – an error that undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country.

“This failure occurred when the Obama Justice Department unilaterally decided to treat this foreign terrorist as an ordinary criminal.

“Abdulmutallab was questioned for less than one hour before the Justice Department advised him that he could remain silent and offered him an attorney at our expense.

“Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist ‘lawyered up’ and stopped talking.

“When the Obama administration decided to treat Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation’s top intelligence officials.

“The Director of National Intelligence was not consulted.

“The Secretary of Defense was not consulted.

“The Secretary of Homeland Security was not consulted.

“The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center was not consulted.

“They would have explained the importance of gathering all possible intelligence about Yemen, where there is a serious threat from terrorists whose sights are trained on this nation. They would have explained the critical nature of learning all we could from Abdulmutallab. But they were never asked.

“President Obama recently used the phrase that ‘we are at war’ with terrorists. But unfortunately his rhetoric does not match the actions of his administration.

“The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.

“And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them, fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day.

“There’s no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab’s interrogation. There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal.

“This charade must stop. Foreign terrorists are enemy combatants and they must be treated as such. The safety of the American people depends on it.

“I’m Senator Susan Collins from Maine. Thank you for listening.”


Filed under: GOP • Homeland Security • Obama administration • Susan Collins • Terrorism
soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. Gerry NH

    When the shoe bomber was tried there was no military tribunial in effect and in 2004 the supreme court had said that the whole matter need to be redone. So using the shoe bomber as an example is not a good example.

    January 30, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Robrob

    "There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal"

    Other than he *was* a criminal and received the same treatment as the Shoe Bomber? Two months after the event she distorts reality ("50 minutes") and rants about things she ignored under the Bush administration. Total lack of credibility.

    Why do Republicans hate America?

    January 30, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. Larry from Texas

    We don't observe the rights to due process as a reward for citizenship. These procedures are the characteristics of a moral and just nation – seperating us from the totalitarian states we've fought so hard to defeat. We grant rights to individuals not because they don't deserve punishment, but because America always must hold the moral high ground. Without this national morality, we practice only nationalism, not patriotism.

    January 30, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Helene

    Of course he is a common criminal. What else ? A soldier ? What was Timothy McVeigh, if not a common terrorist and a criminal.

    January 30, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Iowan

    The term "War on Terror" is so stupid...

    January 30, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Eric of Reseda

    The GOP, or the Party of Liars, forgets that Dubya did same with Shoe Bomber. Also, Dubya allowed 9/11 to happen, by ignoring any number of reports that should have put this country on high alert (if like FDR's admin, wasn't purposefully complicit ala Pearl Harbor, or wasn't followign the Pentagon's infamous "Operation Northwoods" plan, which included flying domestic airlines into U.S. buildings and blaming it on Cubans in order to justify invasion of Cuba. And by the way, since when can FOUR commercial jets be hijacked at the same time in the U.S.?). And Dubya has also caused the deaths of 6,000 servicepeople overseas, and tens of thousands to be wounded. And for what? Regime change? And still, Bin Laden runs free...AFTER Dubya let him get away in Tora Bora. The GOP has nothing to fear...but itself. The American People who favor the Right have been sold one lie after another. Too bad their fear for this country's future has them grasping at Republican straws.

    January 30, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. duckunder

    Enough already. The FBI said the kid was singing about everything when he was interviewed. Obama does get it! More troops in Afganistan. Drones are eliminating al Queda thugs in Pakistan, something GWB wouldn't do. When will you right wingers ever tell the truth about anything?

    January 30, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. katiec

    Collins, like the majority of the party of NOthing, evidently believes in torture.
    The facts are:
    828 terrorists have been tried in civilian courts with an 88% conviction rate.
    20 in military court with a 15% conviction rate.
    So, as usual, the republicans are being their usual hypocritical selves and blowing hot air.

    January 30, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  9. PA WEAVER

    TO FRANKLY LAND OF LINCOLN: I don't quite understand how this administration has failed when it comes to terrorism. The Christmas Day Bomber was allowed to board a US Flight in Amsterdam by the lack of proper screening by the Dutch Government – is this the fault of the U.S. Administration and in regard to the Intelliegence Community not connecting the dots – remember is was the previous Administration who put these intellligence measures in place and was always complementing itself on how well protected we were under their Administration. They ruled this country and won a re-election under "Fear Mongering".

    January 30, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  10. Michele

    I highly doubt that a kid who set himself on fire instead of setting off the explosives has the reams of knowledge about upcoming plots that Collins thinks he does. Did she want him tortured? Does she want more captured Americans beheaded because we treat the 'enemy' as not human? I would really like it if these so-called conservatives began to act as if someone other than an American citizen was also created by the God they pretend to worship. We HAVE to act in a reasonable manner to people. We HAVE to abide by our laws, always. Otherwise, we are no different than the terrorists.

    January 30, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. Marwan

    David C – NJ
    Richard Reid and Mousawi were caught and detained before the military tribunals were set up.
    Once set up and Guantanamo was opened, all enemy combatants were handled through intelligence agencies not criminal courts. That approached worked very well and still works . This is evident by the fact that Obama does not have a better plan and Guantanamo is still open.

    It is time for the liberal nutcases such as yourself to shed your ideology and use common sense, if that is possible in your case.

    January 30, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. OIF Vet

    If the GOP led congress and President Dick and his tag along George Bush did such a good job of figting the war on terrorism, then why is Osama and his friends still at large and why are we still fighting in Afghanistan?

    January 30, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Brandon V in DFW

    Wow, its pretty amazing that America the land of the free and the home of democracy and fair justice can't seem to find ways to use its vast amount of laws to prosecute terrorism suspects legitimately, at least not to the liking of Republicans.

    You mean to tell me that the many people who were charged with terrorism, and went to trial in the US court system under the Bush now can't be handled under the Obama Administration.

    Franky, you don't trust an administration that has kept us safer longer in their 1st term than Bush did in his 1st term. Richard Reid was charged with terrorism and convicted in US court. The D.C. sniper was charged with terrorism and convicted in a US court. The terrorist responsible for the anthrax attacks (killing 5 ppl) was never caught by the Bush administration.

    Those are just a few of the terrorist actions on Bush's watch and you don't trust this administration, for a failed attack by someone who got on a plan in the Netherlands, wow. If you are that scared you should just go put your head in the sand and wait for the next republican to keep us safe.

    January 30, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Abolish the 2-Party System

    Hey Frankie, "our Consitution (sic) is a risky and complicated one"....

    Are you kidding? The US Constitution is one of the most profound documents ever created on this planet, providing the high watermark for liberty among all nations. Your fear of it makes your love of this country suspect.

    January 30, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. pete

    The shoebomber case is slightly different than the underwear bomber in one crucial regard- Richard Reid was a British Citizen! We have complicated agreements with our allies how these cases get dealt with- If Reid had been from say, Yemen, it would've been a different case. I agree however, that none of these should be tried in US Criminal Courts. Belongs in a Military Court.

    January 30, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. welches, oregon

    Uh, if I remember right, Bush was warned well in advance that Bin Laden was determined to attack the US, and was counseled on how it would happen (fly planes into buildings.) yet Bush didn't do a single thing to prevent it. AND when Bin Laden was within our scope, he ordered guns down.

    Did all the GOps forget these facts?

    January 30, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  17. juge

    Hey lady Susan get over yourself. We should torture but you don't think we should have health insurance for all. HMMMMMMM if you have read the stories of people denied and people without – well I would say that is torture. Where do you draw the line. GENEVA CONVENTION. At the moment I would not trust the CIA to interrogate according to law. So we are left with the civil system, that if you know anything about information gathering, seems to do a credible job.

    January 30, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  18. Vindex

    The Republicans not only said nothing while 9/11 conspirators and the Shoe Bomber were tried in Federal Courts, they celebrated it. The results were "a tribute to America's greatness".

    Hey, GOP, if one thing has been proven in American politics, Americans absolutely hate hypocrites. As soon as a member of the GOP comes forth that had condemned the previous terroist trials in Federal Court, maybe I'll listen. But, I (as an independent voter) will pay no credence to this piling on of partisan hypocricy from the party who actually was in power when the worst terrorist attack in our history happened.

    January 30, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  19. Chuck

    Yesterday Wolf was interviewing Rudy G, who went on and on about this subject. Wolf asked if all the terrorists prosecuted in court by the Bush Admin were also wrong. Rudy said well of course not, those were different sitiuations.

    I would like to see the media call them out on this, not just John Stewart.

    January 30, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Dave

    I guess our constitution is flawed since we obviously cannot obtain any useful information under the rights that it dictates. I guess it's obvious that we should just pick and choose when we want to follow it or not. Since she obviously feels that we cannot obtain critical information, what does that say for the thousands of murders, rapists, child molesters, kidnappers, drug dealers, etc. that are U.S. citizens? Does this mean that we can obtain more information about the crimes that they commit if we didn't have to follow the constitution? Does that mean that without having to follow the constitution, we could make the country safer?

    January 30, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  21. Jay T.

    Since Republicans did such a bang-up job on the war on terror. And, before you tell me how we weren't attacked, remember 9/11 was on their watch.

    January 30, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  22. Gary

    I think the President handled the real Terrorist pretty good. Yesterday.
    Pretty much let them know how ignorant they are. These " Anti " government republicans are worse than any terrorist. They just don't stop. They are more dangerous to real Americans than Al Quida.
    Hypocrits!!

    January 30, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  23. Henry Newhouse

    I'm ashamed of Susan Collins in that she has allowed herself to be used by the Repubs to voice an absolutely ridiculous talking point which in her heart she knows it is wrong. It seems she may be losing her common sense values that the people of Maine are noted for. The current Administration has done a much better job of keeping their eye on the terrorist ball than the Bush administration ever did. Her comment was totally counter-productive and it displays what is wrong in Washington.

    January 30, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  24. Change In America

    The republicans dont like Prez Obama because they dont want a black man in charge.

    January 30, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. James Brooklyn N.Y.

    Once again the Domestic Terrorist AKA the Republican party speaks without knowing any facts.

    January 30, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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