Washington (CNN) - In Saturday's Republican weekly address, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, takes issue with the Obama administration's policies for handling terrorism suspects and makes the case for trying terrorism cases in military tribunals rather than civilian courts.
(Read the full text of Graham's remarks after the jump)
Terrorists, what are they up to, and what do we do with them was the talk of Sunday morning.
In a “State of the Union” exclusive interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says in the year since the Obama era opened, Al Qaeda has become “more creative, more flexible, more agile.”
White House Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan made it pretty clear the administration is intent on a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, while former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin predicted that if President Obama doesn’t change course on national security matters, he won’t be re-elected.
By way of comfort, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says there is no double-dip recession in sight.
All that and 30 inches of snow just to make the trek into work interesting. My cup runneth over on my first day on the job.
On now to the Sound of Sunday.
Washington (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder challenged his leading Republican critics Wednesday over the handling of the failed Christmas Day bomber, defending his decision to provide the suspect with Miranda warnings and charge him in a civilian court.
In identical letters to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans in Congress, Holder said he acted with the knowledge of all relevant government departments and agencies in deciding against treating suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab as an enemy combatant.
Holder also noted that similar past decisions on terrorism suspects by previous administrations of both parties received no criticism.
"The decision to charge Mr. AbdulMutallab in federal court, and the methods used to interrogate him, are fully consistent with the long-established and publicly known policies and practices of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the United States government as a whole, as implemented for many years by administrations of both parties," Holder's letter said.
"Those policies and practices, which were not criticized when employed by previous administrations, have been and remain extremely effective in protecting national security," the letter said. "They are among the many powerful weapons this country can and should use to win the war against al Qaeda."
Washington (CNN) – Congressional Democrats are increasingly concerned about the President's plan to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to block it.
Eighteen senators, including two Democrats and one Independent, unveiled a bill Tuesday to withhold funding the President requested to try terror suspects in civilian courts.
"It's an unusual thing we're doing here," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT. "We are trying to use Congress' power of the purse to stop these trials."
The move comes a day after the President requested in his budget a boost in homeland security funding to help pay for the transfer and trials of detainees on U.S. soil.
One of the Democratic co-sponsors is Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year.
Washington (CNN) - No decision has been made on whether to change the current plan to hold the September 11 terrorist attack trial in a civilian court in lower Manhattan, White House officials said Sunday.
Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians expressed concern over the costs and disruption of holding the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accomplices at a New York City courthouse.
David Axelrod, the senior adviser to President Obama, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that Obama believes the trial should take place in a criminal court instead of before a military commission, as permitted for some terrorism suspects.
However, Axelrod and Gibbs acknowledged that Obama and the Justice Department were considering moving the trial from New York City.
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.”
The two men who led the 9/11 Commission appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee Tuesday. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Washington (CNN) - The man who led the investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks said Tuesday he was shocked and upset when he heard the intelligence community was not consulted before the decision was made to read the suspected underwear bomber his rights.
That decision came only hours after authorities say the would-be bomber attempted to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.
Former 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday it "made no sense whatsoever" to give Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab all of his rights and a lawyer before he could be questioned fully.
AbdulMutallab was interviewed twice by FBI agents before they read him his Miranda rights approximately 10 hours after the failed bombing incident. Officials said AbdulMutallab did provide some intelligence during the
questioning but stopped talking once he was Mirandized - read his rights under U.S. law.
Kean said there may be other plots and details about al Qaeda leadership in Yemen that will never be known.
"This is not just about prosecuting an individual, it's about protecting the American people," said Kean.
Lee Hamilton, the former vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, told the committee there appears to be no government policy on how to handle suspected terrorist detainees. "There has to be a policy, it has to be clarified," he said.
(CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, among those opposed to former TSA nominee Erroll Southers, issued the following statement on Southers' withdrawal:
"Americans deserve a leader at TSA with integrity and with an unwavering commitment to putting security ahead of politics. The White House never responded to requests for more information relating to Mr. Southers false testimony to Congress and his censure by the FBI for improperly accessing files. And Mr. Southers was never forthcoming about his intentions to give union bosses veto power over security decisions at our airports. TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes. The Senate could have had an open and transparent debate this week to approve Mr. Southers, but apparently, answering simple, direct questions about security and integrity were too much for this nominee. I hope the President will quickly put forward a new nominee that is fully vetted and that will put the safety of the American people first."
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday, according to the White House.
Erroll Southers, assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence at Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama in early September.
He came under fire from the GOP for testimony before Congress in which Senate Republicans claim he gave incomplete information about accessing a federal database for personal reasons. The move led to a censure from the FBI.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, also spearheaded GOP objections to Southers based on concerns over the TSA becoming unionized.
The official, John Brennan, said the realization that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's "aspirations" to attack the United States had become a real and nearly successful plot was his biggest surprise in reviewing intelligence failures surrounding the event.