February 7th, 2010
01:13 PM ET
12 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. Independant in Maine

    GI Joe, Love the comment! It amazes me how short our memories are, the criticism of the Obama administration by the right sounds just like the criticism of the Bush administration by people that are actually capable of thinking for themselves.

    February 7, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. Danny J

    Political or not, the republicans are 100% right. The Obama administration is handling every aspect of terrorism incorrectly, from threats to the U.S. to the trials to Guantanamo bay.

    February 7, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. scott jeffries

    I voted for Obama hoping for a change from GWB and the neocons. I am tired of the constant blaming and pass the buck mentality of those in power. However, i am finding Obama is using the same ole DC insider tactics that the GOP used.

    To Brennan, the WH and Homeland security bungled the security for the Christmas Day Bomber.. PERIOD! you and the rest of the WH need to get your act together for the safty of the country.

    We are tired of the constant blaming the other guy. Your in power nwo, its your responsbility.

    February 7, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. Independent

    I'm more afraid of a repub with a bible under his/her arm than a muslim with a turban

    February 7, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |

    Man these republicans are really starting to worry me. I think what we are starting to see is the side-effects of our nations horrible educational system. Republicans need to go to school and learn some history and not ignore what they want to ignore.

    February 7, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. joe

    no kidding! the GOP down right scares me. they make everything political. i hear now that sarah palin is calling for a revolution. that's crazy!

    February 7, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Mike in MN

    I don't know about the Republicans but Obama has been playing politics with terrorism since he was a sitting Senator.
    To impress the independents he has lost, Obama likes to grandstand in front of the cameras that he values the ideas of the oppostion. But whenever the opposition express their ideas that are different from his, Obama trashs them and says they are playing politics and obstructing. In other words the opposition according to Obama should have no opinion or at least not express it.
    Obama wants to be a king where everyone at least pretends to agree with him.

    February 7, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. Melissa

    Conservatives just don't like reality. I am very very sick of it.

    February 7, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. Patriot

    This is pathetic. All we do is fight and bicker among ourselves, which is just what those in power want. It's called "divide and conquer" for political gain.

    The American Middle Class, which is the backbone of this nation, needs to come together and take our govt. back from the lobbyists and their corrupt cronies in Washington. Neither party is serving us well, and it's time all of us, no matter what our party affiliation, to recognize this and forcefully say "Enough!"

    The People are supposed to have the power in this country, NOT the corporations or the politicians. Let's all come together–Dems, Repubs, Indpendents, Greens, Libertarians, etc–and take our country back from these corrupt, power hungry, self-centered pieces of crap who have sold us out for their own political and financial gain.

    I for one am sick and tired of them destroying our democracy with their lies and corruption, and their selfishness, obstruction, and gridlock.

    February 7, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Dimslie

    Ah. And after the Dims were so nice to George Bush. The Dims playing politics were responsible for most of our deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    February 7, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. mizmo

    Once again we get venom spewing from the right and some serious fear-mongering. The left is constantly defending itself from right wing criticism and the truth is that nobody is getting anything done. If the conservatives are so worried about being attacked why didn't they listen to the Clinton administration when they said that an attack was imminent. I'm sick and tired of this hate spewing, fear-mongering crap from the GOP. They keep spewing crap like we will become socialist or communist when they have no idea what those concepts are. Are there that many ignorant Americans? (rhetorical). It's time for politicians to get back to doing what is right for Americans rather than what they want for their party or themselves. Capitalism used to represent free-enterprise and ingenuity but has evolved into a religion of greed and criticism. Totally disgusting. To the right wing I would say stop being nay-sayers and start helping out with some constructive ideas instead of non-productive criticism.

    February 7, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. bigdoglv

    Reading these comments you can see the problem. Our so called leaders are leading people off the left cliff and off the right cliff. Our government seems to do nothing but push their agenda. No common sense needed. Fools!

    February 7, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  13. bigdoglv

    Note to both sides, blame is not progress.

    February 7, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  14. Dimslie

    It's one thing for the rank and file left wing nuts to make posts on this website. It basicly does no harm to let delusional people talk. The problem is that the leaders of the Dims(i.e. Pelosi, Obama, and Reid) sound essentially the same. Completely divorced from reality. November can't come soon enough.

    February 7, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. D Mac

    Please America understand the republican party is the party
    of fear..We should try the terrorist in New York City, we will
    find them guilty and hang them off the steel at the world
    trade center, then Al Qaeda will lose... If we are afraid of trying
    them in New York then Al Qaeda wins, we need more intestinal
    fortitude from all of our politicians.

    February 7, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  16. Ken, AZ

    I am a DEMOCRAT and staunch supporter of President Obama and his policies. However, I am a bit tired of everyone blaming George Bush for a lot of things without also blaming the republicans, who propped him up. They had no problem with the way things were done under their watch but are extremely critical of this administration when they do some of the exact same things. Talk about hypocrisy!!!!

    February 7, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  17. dennispaul

    btw, Bill of Rights....5th amendment....Miranda....applies to the Citizenry of the U.S.A.........don't think that includes the enemy.....so yes both sides are wrong if they read them "their" rights.....the bad guys have NO rights under our Constitution.

    February 7, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Bill from CA

    This is nothing new. From the politicizing of the color-coded 'threat chart' during the 2004 elections, to Bush dropping the term "9/11" more often than Dick Cheney scowls, the GOP have to play politics with terrorism. If they don't, then people will be unafraid and will actually focus on the fact that the GOP is not only out of touch with reality, but is increasingly made up of fringe extremists, and have little to nothing to offer in terms of policy debates.

    February 7, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. Mike in SA

    Perhaps the Republicans didn't ask the question because the idea that this guy would be immediately transferred to the civilian side was so out there as to be utterly ridiculous. No person in their right mind would think that it's OK to move a terrorist who just tried to kill 300 people by blowing up a plane to a system where he gets his Miranda rights, ergo most people in their right minds would not think the question even needed to be asked. And yes, this means that AG Holder is not in his right mind.

    It is amazing that even when this administration's actions prove to be an abject failure, the first thing they do is point to the other side. What happened to all this accountability you talked about last year, Obama???

    February 7, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. Toby Hill

    To all the National Security Experts now saying that he's talking.

    He was given Miranda Rights 50 minutes after talking which means nothing he said during that time can be used against him and then he never started talking again for 55 days, only after his dad gave him a visit and after the Feds started talking plea deal.

    What information didn't we get in needed time during that 55 day span?

    February 7, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. Jenn, Philadelphia

    The irony is that this administration's answer is "Bush did the same" and yet when they weren't in the administration, they criticized Bush for everything he did (and still blame him). It's the same words, the only "change" is the mouths they're coming out of.

    February 7, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. dan

    That's funny. The Democrats are playing politics with terrorism too.

    February 7, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. AK steve

    The republican party is a domestic terrorist group. Their partisanship has nothing to do with helping the country. And they have no principles what so ever. Unless you call doing everything you can to prevent any progress from happening a principle.

    Washington is broken and the GOP is responsible.

    February 7, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. Alex in Wisconsin

    I don't blame the Republican from playing politics with national security. Apparantly, there are people who will believe anything a conservative says about Obama, even if there is no basis in reality and fact.

    These are the same people who told us we were unpatriotic if we criticized the president. 6 years later, the only difference between then and now, in terms of our commander and chief and national security, is that the man in charge is not caucasian, does not belong to the republican party, and the number of millitants being killed has gone up while the number of casualties has been relatively low. The terrorists are still there, the wars are still happening, the terrorists that get caught in America are still being tried in federal court, and the country still hasn't suffered a sucessful non-millitary terrorist plot. So you can see how the blood thirsty Conservatives are mad about.....everything.

    February 7, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Toby Hill

    Seattle Sue,

    There's been 3 attacks under Obama. I know it's real hard for you to say terrorist when it comes to Ft Hood but it was. How about the Arkansas Recruiting Office? The Christmas Day bombing actually happened although it killed no one, the bomb actually went off. Far cry from "attempted terrorist attck".

    February 7, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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