- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 7, 2010

UPDATED:

An exasperated Obama administration newly committed to preaching partisan peace slammed Republicans for playing politics on national security and making ignorant allegations about the investigation into the Christmas airliner plot.

Deputy national security adviser John Brennan complained Sunday that politicians, many of them Republicans, were unfairly criticizing the administration for partisan purposes and second-guessing the case with a “500-mile screwdriver” that reaches from Washington to the scene of the abortive attack in Detroit.

“Quite frankly, I’m tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football,” Mr. Brennan said. “They are going out there, they’re unknowing of the facts, and they’re making charges and allegations that are not anchored in reality.”

Mr. Brennan’s comments came a day after President Obama urged Democrats to work with Republicans, telling those attending the Democratic Party’s winter meeting that “we can’t solve all of our problems alone.” The president offered a similar message to a recent gathering of House Republicans.

Republicans have been particularly vocal in criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to charge accused bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in civilian criminal court rather than a military tribunal and allowing him to be advised of his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer. In contrast to claims that Mr. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, stopped talking to authorities, administration officials have contended that the suspect has been providing useful information.

Mr. Brennan said he had personally briefed top Republican lawmakers on Christmas night about Mr. Abdulmutallab’s arrest and that none of them had raised objections then.

“There’s been quite a bit of an outcry after the fact, where again, I’m just very concerned on behalf of counterterrorism professionals throughout our government, that politicians continue to make this a political football and are using it for whatever political or partisan purposes,” he said.

Among those he said he briefed were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican; House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican; and the top Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees, Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missori and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan.

The Republican lawmakers contended that the calls they received were short on details, and they remained critical of the administration’s actions.

“Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber,” Mr. Bond said in a statement. “If he had, I would have told him the administration was making a mistake.”

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in a statement that Mr. Brennan was trying to shift attention from “bad decisions” that allowed terrorists in Yemen, where Mr. Abdulmutallab reportedly received al Qaeda training, to gain a head start in the wake of the attack.

“Rather than having highly trained terror investigators spend time with this terrorist, the administration decided to treat him as a common criminal who had a right to a government-funded lawyer and advised of his right to remain silent,” Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Brennan said that Mr. Abdulmutallab was treated no differently than any other terror suspect arrested on U.S. soil and that the FBI and others involved in his arrest acted appropriately.

“I think those counterterrorism professionals deserve the support of our Congress,” he said. “And rather than second-guessing what they are doing on the ground with a 500-mile screwdriver from Washington to Detroit, I think they have to have confidence in the knowledge and the experience of these counterterrorism professionals.”

Mr. Brennan said he was confident that the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would face the “full weight of American justice” when he is tried, no matter what the venue.

The administration had wanted to try him in New York but backtracked on that plan under criticism, which has included calls for him to be tried by a military tribunal and not a civilian court.

“I have no doubt that the American justice system will prevail. Despite the claims and the criticisms of a lot of folks, including in Congress, that our judicial system is unable to handle these terrorists, I believe that our system of justice here is strong,” Mr. Brennan said.

“And I’m not going to give al Qaeda the victory of being able to overturn our system of jurisprudence here that is anchored in our Constitution and reflects our values as a people,” he said.

Mr. Brennan spoke on NBC television’s “Meet the Press.”

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