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. Joel Miller

    Shame on Senator Collins for trying to score political points on national security. This was the problem with the previous administration which got itself reelected based on generating fears about WMD in Iraq and terrorism. Look what that got us: plenty of dead American soldiers, a huge deficit, reduced respect around the world, reduced ability to keep rogue states like Korea and Iran contained, 100s of 1000s of dead Iraqis, reduced privacy and civil liberties and the list goes on and on.

    January 30, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    This completely misses the bigger question: Why are terrorists worldwide still actively plotting to harm us? Obama claimed that once he took office, the main cause of terrorism would be removed.

    Sounds like the world might not be as simple as Obama thinks.

    Ya think?

    January 30, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. Preston

    I would like to thank Sen. Collins for reaffirming that the phrase "moderate Republican" has become ... inoperative.

    It's "thinking" like hers that helps serve as justification for the mistreatment of American nationals abroad.

    January 30, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. Larry

    Conservatives have a double standard. When they have the levers of power it's do as I say not as I do. Be it states' rights (which they only champion when they're out of power), terrorism (shoe bomber), Welfare (ok with it if it's for the rich) and illegal immigration (okay with cheap labor they can exploit)

    January 30, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  5. Tyler

    Senator.. the Constituton protects all people, not just citizens. And are you really advocating we through that away? I guess you havent really thought this point out very far have you? Not only do you sound ignorant, you also sound like the very enemy we're fighting. Is your next point that since the enemy doesnt follow the Geneva Conventions, neither should we? Im just curious when the Republican Party, as you represent it, decided it was in America's better interest to torture prisoners for intelligence than it would be to offer them a lawyer. This "blind spot" that you refer to is the torture of suspected terrorists on American soil, and apparently your "blind spot" are both the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions. I mean come on Senator, it's not like he's letting him out of prison to go run around Maine.

    January 30, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Albo58

    Closing Gitmo and proposing to try some of these murdering dogs in New York City is the "outside the box" thinking of the current President and his AG stooge and these liberal ideas are painfully wrong to most Americans. Illegal combatants are NOT covered by our Constitution, thus a military court is the only place they should be tried, it's that simple!

    January 30, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. Perry

    Why do Republicans keep spreading the lie that terrorists are being treated like people taken into custody after a traffic stop. I challenge Sen. Collins to prove her "Miranda Warning" drivel. Ask her for it and I bet she responds "that is what I was told".

    Obama was right. After your constituents start to believe such crazy nonsense, you have no place to negotiate about anything, even if you want to. Your constituents would crucify you.

    Those who seek to further division among us will be startled when we choose sides and they are in a very small minority.

    January 30, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. D.D.

    I think the Homeland Security Director should remain in place for an extended time while training the successor for almist a year. This job and the Secretary of Defense should train the next person rather than immediately step out of the cabinet. Someone read this and convience someone in Washington.These are two of the three powerful seats.

    January 30, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. richard

    if the president don't see the light by now ........ its going to be a done deal the republicans are going to get back 1600 penn and this time its going to be an 8 yr win for the republicans. the president has 90 days to turn this tail spin around. first end the tax credits which just adds to the defict tell the folks that the cuts that are coming will cut the debt and put more money in their take home pay. cuts in programs so the peoples property taxes will going down... the repubs are going in on the prez for trying that xmas day bomber in a civilan court..... thats an opening that the right is going to exploit. this was a serious mistake and will backfire on the atty gen. and the prez. it is said that the president stands the chance of losing seats in his own state...this is an sad day . the republicans are elated..... prez you are not on the right track.

    January 30, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. JLM

    The worst terror attack in history happened on Republican watch.

    January 30, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. PL

    So it was wrong for the trial of the shoe bomber, a terrorist, in civilian court in the previous administration, this administration can do the same thing as an excuse and a point of argument?
    Two wrongs does not make it right.
    Susan Collins is right to speak up for the safety of this country.
    Where were the democrats who should have spoken up against the previous administration.
    That's why we have the two party system for checks and balance, for the interest of the American people.
    If your loved ones were on that plane, and the bomber was successful, would you not want to stop that from happening to innocent people? Terrorists do not care about your loss. They don't even care about their own lives. You go reason with them.

    January 30, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  12. R in Maine

    That is a disgusting attempt to aggrandize your role in opposition to terrorism. There is no reason not to have trial in public and in populated areas. You are a coward from the gitgo, just trying to find political advantage. You are not a patriot, not at all.

    January 30, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. Mike in MN

    Obama and Holder are wrong and going taking us down a dangerous path. We are at war with the terrorists. The are prisoners of war not domestic criminals. If Obama does not reverse himself on this America and Americans will be less safe. Going down this path will not make the terrorists hate us less but the French may like us a bit more.

    January 30, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. Nea

    People before it was the where are the jobs thing from the Republicans now its about Terrorism, i guess now since this Administation is focusing on jobs i guess the Republicans have to find something to criticize the President for, another polictical tastic they are trying to use.

    January 30, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. Truth Squad

    Wow, here is a woman who, for all intents and purposes has been an acting Democrat for years. The right and conservatives have pilloried here for all the votes she has gone along with Democrats on.

    Amazing that during the "Divisive" Bush years, she reached across the aisle quite allot.

    Now all of sudden she's a right-wing nut because she won't go along with Obama's "centrist" agenda?

    Hillarious. The jig is up and the people have woken up to con game that is "Obama is a centrist, bi-partisan guy".

    The reality is Obama is so left-wing he can't even convince Liberal Massachusetts to go his way.

    If the media was doing their job, Democrats would have been the party of no from 2002-2006 and they still won the house and senate.

    Democrats sabotaged a war, and you clowns are complaining about Republicans wanting to treat terrorists like terrorsts?

    Liberals have weird priorities. Hate Bush, Cheney, Republicans.
    Feel bad for terrorists.

    January 30, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. gp

    So if an American citizen goes over seas and breaks a law, they are to be tried under American law? Since people are saying our laws don't apply to foreigners that break our laws, just whose law do we try them under? What if blowing up a civilian airplane isn't against the law in their native country?

    Collins is stretching the truth and facts to make a political point. What happens is she finds herself in agreement with Obama at some future point now that she has characterized him as incompetent and unsafe?

    While it may be cathartic and produce short term goals, demonizing your opponent doesn't leave you much room for negotiating down the line. She'll have to explain this to her constituents.

    January 30, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. mario ca

    he same fear tactic as Cheney, give us a brak with thais bs again

    January 30, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. Mark

    Obama is a disgrace to the presidency!

    January 30, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
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