February 7th, 2010
01:13 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama aide says Republicans playing politics with terrorism

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/07/art.brennan0207.gi.jpg caption="'I'm tiring of politicians using national security issues … as a political football,' Obama aide John Brennan said Sunday."]
Washington (CNN) - Top Republicans in Congress were told the suspect in the failed Christmas airline bombing was in FBI custody hours after his arrest, and none asked if he would be transferred to military custody, President Barack Obama's assistant on homeland security and counter-terrorism said Sunday.

Republican leaders have criticized the Obama administration for charging terrorism suspect Omar Farouk AbdulMutallab in a criminal court and reading him his Miranda rights instead of turning him over to military custody as an enemy combatant.

In a speech last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "Many Americans were troubled by the administration's response to the Christmas Day attack. And they're equally outraged by its decision to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant who deserved a lawyer, instead of a terrorist who could provide us with vital information to help stop new attacks."

However, John Brennan, the Obama assistant interviewed Sunday on the NBC program "Meet the Press," said none of the GOP leaders in Congress he called on Christmas night - including McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner - raised those issues then.

"I'm tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football," Brennan said, adding: "They're unknowing of the facts and they're making charges and allegations that are not anchored in

The GOP leaders knew that "FBI custody means there's a process that you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate," Brennan said. "None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point. They didn't say, "Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?' "

However, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri, who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that Brennan never informed him of plans to Mirandize AbdulMutallab.

"If he had I would have told him the administration was making a mistake," Bond said. "The truth is that the administration did not even consult our intelligence chiefs, as [Director of National Intelligence Dennis] Blair
testified, so it's absurd to try to blame congressional leaders for this dangerous decision that gave terrorists a five-week head start to cover their tracks."

Brennan noted that in the previous Republican administration of President George W. Bush, Democrats also tried to gain political advantage from security issues.

He urged politicians to refrain from politicizing such issues "rather than second-guessing what is happening on the ground."

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, fired back in a statement Sunday, saying "instead of lashing out politically and attempting to deflect blame, Obama and his advisers need to settle on a coherent and rational national security strategy to help secure our homeland."

AbdulMutallab allegedly attempted to detonate explosive material sewn into his underwear aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day.

Brennan said the the type of attack showed the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to deter large-scale attacks since the September 11, 2001, use of hijacked planes to crash into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, he said.

"It showed how difficult it is for al Qaeda to carry out large-scale attacks," Brennan said. Instead, the group now uses individual operatives to try to carry out smaller attacks, he said.

A Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week was told by the nation's intelligence chiefs - Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others - that another attempted terror attack on the United States was "certain" in the next three to six months.

Brennan said al Qaeda has been a continuous threat to attack the United States for years, and that numerous previous attempts have been prevented.

"It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that al Qaeda is attempting to carry out an attack," Brennan said.

Updated: 2/8/09 12:42 p.m.

Filed under: GOP • John Brennan • Obama administration • Popular Posts • Terrorism
soundoff (190 Responses)
  1. Joanna in PA

    The GOP is indeed playing games. Bush tried the shoe bomber and the liquid bomber in civilian court. Both were read there rights, and both were convicted. Know body aid a thing! It was just fine for Bush to do. Why don't they ever mention that little fact?

    In addition, Obama has increased drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. Changed the tone in the global community so that once again, nations are starting to respect us again. Obama has a plan for both wars, unlike Bush. Obama in one year, has made more progress then bush in 8! So, who is soft of terror? Bush reminds me of a line in the movie night at the museum 2, " were American's, we don"t plan, we do!" Totally a dig at Bush/ cheney.

    February 7, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Florence

    Republicans attacking the WH is the Fox news narrative du jour and unfortunately all the MSM follow their example. These days we are looking more and more divided to the rest of the world and I can't blame the president because he is the one calling for collaboration on issues. When we air our national security issues on the air we forget that people (good or bad) are listenning. That's what making us less safe giving the enemy ammunition to use against us. Republicans you lost the election, in 2012 you'll get an opportunity to win the presidency but in the meantime, you guys need to think about your loyalty to America and stop this absurdity. And if your party loyalists care about this country they will refrain from using national security issues out in public.

    February 7, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Sam

    Conservatives crack me up. The Bush administration saw over 3,000 Americans killed by foreign terrorists on American soil. The Obama administration has seen ZERO. Yet, the Obama administration's "failing" at keeping us safe?

    Can't handle that the "party of national security" failed while the "party of liberal whiners" has done a better job tearing al Qaeda apart?

    February 7, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. Joanna in PA

    Bush and Cheney tortured, got no info, Obama did it the American way and now the Xmas bomber is singing like a canary! That is change i believe in! Betcha fox is reporting that. How they love to censor people that would undermine there predetermine narrative! Do we as Americans want to become exactly what these other terrorist nations are. Then do the GOP way. If we want to be the beacon of justice and morality, as we were until the bush yrs, then go Obama!

    February 7, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. stokr

    Joey, Proc, bullseye,
    Obam has ALL the political seats of power and still can do nothing. The"stimulus" (sad joke) is the only significant legistation passed and it FAILED. The Alinsky/Chomsky agenda became apparent along with Dimo corruption the likes of which have never been seen before even in Washington, back room deals, pay-offs, special interest, secret deals, bills unread, a whole new level of earmarking, a trillion here, trillion there, a healthcare monopoly the PEOPLE don't want! And somehow "Bush did it". Obam's administration is in full disarray, because of HIS incompetence, his ideology and dismissive ignoring of the PEOPLE.

    February 7, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Todd

    I love watching all of you cry for or against this stuff! Point is Obama got voted into his job by a healthy majority, and though I don't agree with all of Obama's decisions, I'm glad this president isn't retarded - sure Palin will want me to quit my job for that - And I'm glad it's not me having to make such difficult decisions. It's so easy to coach from the sidelines, why don't you people actually DO something about it rather than crying. Write your Senators and Congressmen, people, that's what they are supposed to be here for! Otherwise you are just providing entertainment.

    February 7, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. miffed n memphis

    Typical of politics. Just heard Palin criticizing the president.Said he needed to quit acting like a professor of law and be more of a commander-in-chief. Personally, I think he's doing quite well wearing ALL the hats an American president has to don. Remember the mess he was handed a year ago by a president who never sounded like a professor of anything?

    February 7, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. oxbobend

    Libs vs Cons, Libs vs Cons, Libs vs Cons. I am so tired of all these people making these stupid ideolgical stands. ANY american who would put party ideology over the welfare of the people of our great Nation ought to be ashamed of themselves. We've had the Cons in control for eight years and they spent money like a bunch of drunken sailors (just what they are accusing the libs of now). Just because your conservative doesn't mean that you won't send us to the poor house. You already did.
    The facts and the history are right there in front of you. Liberal or conservative? It's all a bunch of hogwash. It's all campaign retoeric.
    The fact is they all do the same think thing after they are elected. Which is pretty much nothing.

    February 7, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Chris

    Of course the Republicans are playing politics with terrorism. That's practically been their party platform since the 9/11 attacks. Bush/Cheney/Rove and the rest of the GOP use the threat of terroism to push their agenda. Remember how the color terror alert would always rise right around an important piece of legislation or an election was coming up. And now that the Democrats are in the majority, the GOP is pushing the myth that we all were safer back when they were in charge. When news of the attempted Christmas day bombing went out, you could see all the Conservatives on tv practically bubbling over with excitement, knowing they could use this as an attack against Obama and not caring one bit about all the people's lives that were threatened.

    February 7, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. Ken in NC

    I'm sick and tired of all the politics in our national security. The DOJ has made it's decision. The DOJ is one department of government that exist to do this job so our congress will not have to try to do it with 547 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate arguing over what to do just as they are doing now. Congress, you cannot do your own work so butt out of the workings of the established offices of government and let them do their jobs. I do agree that if you do not feel they are doing what you want them to do then you have the right when you are in the majority to take control and have them do your bidding, however, to bicker now is simply showing to our enemies that they are having some success in their endeavor to weaken us as a nation. They see we are at each others throats and no longer united. We elected a President and he is the President. Now if you object to the way he is running things then you can try to vote him out in 4 years but until that time he is our leader and rather than coming down on the side of our enemies by causing disruptions, you should work with this President to defeat our real enemies. Silly things like holding up nominations of department heads that could cause us as a nation to be less safe all for the sake of an earmark is a good example of what I am talking about. Making hay over a DOJ decision regarding the attempted panty bomber is another example. Voice your displeasure about it and then move on. Do not destroy our country simply because you do not like what the elected leader is doing. Also remember that when you were in office as the majority, the minority had no choice but to work with you. Well I guess they could have tried to destroy this nation as you are now doing but I'm sure we would have herd cries from all Americans of how "Un-American" the minority was being. So guys try thinking more about the survival of our country than destroying it because you don't like the man running it.

    February 7, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. syllabs

    Re: Sam

    "Conservatives crack me up. The Bush administration saw over 3,000 Americans killed by foreign terrorists on American soil. The Obama administration has seen ZERO. Yet, the Obama administration's "failing" at keeping us safe?"

    Hmmm...does Ft. Hood or West Little Rock ring any bells for you, Sam?

    Maybe you should branch out from CNN.com every once and a while...

    February 7, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Ed

    The way the Republicans are playing politics with security endangers our national security. Framing our national security as a political issue so that a successful attact will be seen as a win for the Republicans can only encourage our enemies to increase their efforts knowing a sucessful attact will not be met by a unified front but it will further divide our country.

    February 7, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. Joe D

    The issue here was the failure to follow their own process. Initially, some in the Administration said that they learned lessons and failed to follow their new high level detainee proceedures. Then, they said that the high level detainee committee was not up and running. (Why, remains a question.) It is fair to criticize Napolitano and others involved in all of the process failures surrounding this incident as well as the flawed decision to try KSM in NY. I know that some will say that we have put many on trial in civilian courts - that is true - but this individual is different than all others before him. With all that said, I am tired of the political opportunism on both sides. Both of these Administrations made mistakes. We have to learn from them and move on without calling one group Nazies and the other soft.

    February 7, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |

    I don't understand why obama presdient are keep blame on bush presdient about terroist but why muslims was shooting at fort hood in teaxas so I am belived trust bush presdient that he was vey great charge against muslim terroist please obama stop blame on repbulic

    February 7, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    No DUH! Just like they did for 8 years under Bush/Cheney.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    February 7, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Joel Miller

    Bush used terrorism to justify a completely unnecessary war in Iraq. Taking advantage over fears generated by 9/11, he took over that country on behalf of Haliburton and the oil companies. Thousands of American and Iraqi lives and billions of dollars later, we are still there and the bill won't be paid for a generation. Repubs will swiftboat everything the Obama administration does hoping that a continued barrage of pot shots give them a shot in 2012. Let's not fall for it. Let's make sure that doesn't happen.

    February 7, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. Nurse

    Panic and fear for political gain.......I'm sorry are we talking about republicans or obama's adjenda ? I'm lost here.

    February 7, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  18. Bill

    Brennen has the qualifications to be where he's at, however he's wrong when says the GOP is playing politic's with terrorists. If he had said the Republican, Democrats and Independants were playing politic's with terrorists then he would have been correct.

    February 7, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. Nurse

    Al qaeda has tripled in strength in the last year and a half . that is Bushes fault .. right , am I right on that ?

    February 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. Charles W. Skinner

    No one asked the question about having him transferred to military custody as an enemy combatant because it seemed expected as a matter of standard procedure for a terrorist attack coming from foreign soil.

    Not a citizen, was subdued and in custody of the personnel on the plane (a "citizens" arrest) before landing = NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to a Miranda warning or other protected rights when transferred to FBI custody.

    February 7, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |

    Thank god that Obama and his Chicago thugs never play politics with issues such as health care and national security, only the Republicans.

    Of course we are complete and total idiots...

    February 7, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. rob

    Republicans are so transparent and self serving. I've come to loathe them, and the Blue Dog Dems.

    February 7, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. karyc

    i love the new gop/conservative slogan now "hows hope and change doing for you now?" LOL They take a ball and run with it every chance they get.
    you know, i hope for many changes in my life like a new car, good health, more money at my job, that i wake alive the next day..none of these things that i hope for will happen over night. am i the only one who knows that hope/change doesnt happen over night. that it takes time and commitment for change to happen?
    hours after obama was sworn in the conservatives were whining that change wasnt happening.
    some very bad people/businesses did some very bad things that put us the position we are in right now. YET NO ONE seems to be very angry with them

    February 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. B

    Nothing new here, the Republicans have used Fear and War as a main policy talking points forever.
    Power, lower taxes, money control, and war is the main theme with them.

    They do nothing for average American workers and never will.

    February 7, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain

    This is how stupid Republicans are and how stupid they think we are:

    – Bush ignored the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing entitled, "Al Qaeda Determined to Attack the U.S. Using Airplanes".

    – They lied us into Iraq, including cynically using the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse by trying to convince us Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attack – which even Cheney now admits is a lie.

    – They thought Iraq would be a cakewalk – just ask Donald "I doubt if it will take 6 months/we'll be greeted as liberators" Rumsfeld.

    – They thought they'd take over the Iraqi oil fields and make a bundle of money for their oil buddies back in the States (what they were discussing during the secret energy policy meetings Cheney held with the oil execs).

    The result? Keep people at home happy with low gas prices, keep giving more tax cuts to the wealthy who will then continue to ship jobs overseas, complete the gutting of the American Middle Class, complete the transfer of wealth to the rich, and finally, succeed in turning the United States into a Third-World country.

    Don't believe me? Just read what Grover Norquist, Karl Rove and the other Republican architects think about America and its citizens: We're nothing but a bunch of puppets they want to manipulate so they can take our wealth and control us.

    February 7, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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