- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sen. John McCain said Sunday that President Obama’s tougher talk about fighting terrorism following the attempted Christmas airliner bombing does not match his decision to try the bomber in civilian court.

“That person should be tried as an enemy combatant; he’s a terrorist,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said. “And if we are at war, then we certainly should not be trying that individual in a court other than a military trial.”

He said Mr. Obama should not allow terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, to get “lawyered up” for his day in court instead of handing him to intelligence officials to extract vital information.

“To have a person be able to get lawyered up when we need that information very badly, I think betrays or contradicts the president’s view that we are at war,” Mr. McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The remarks echo criticism of Mr. Obama’s decision to close the terrorist detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, transfer some of the roughly 200 detainees to facilities in the United States and prosecute some of them in federal courts.

Mr. McCain and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut independent, who appeared together on the talk show, also demanded that people be punished for the security and intelligence lapses that enabled Mr. Abdulmutallab to board a Detroit-bound international flight with explosives in his underwear.

Mr. Obama has said that as commander in chief he ultimately bears responsibility for the failures and that no one will be fired over the incident.

“People should be held responsible for what happened,” Mr. McCain said. “We can’t go back to the old Washington kind of routine — we are all responsible, so therefore nobody is responsible. Somebody has got to be held responsible.”

Mr. Lieberman said, “If human errors were made, I think some of the humans who made those errors have to be disciplined so that they never happen again.”

He declined to say who should be disciplined, but said “something went wrong” at the National Counterterrorism Center and mistakes were made at the State Department.

Still, Mr. McCain, who as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee blasted Mr. Obama’s weak stance against terrorism, said he appreciated the president’s comments that “we are at war” with terrorists.

“They are a departure from his language before,” Mr. McCain said.

After the failed attempt by Mr. Abdulmutallab, who reportedly was trained and equipped by an al Qaeda group, Mr. Obama said, “We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.”

Mr. Obama previously avoided characterizing the terrorist threat as a “war,” and the administration dropped the “war on terror” title that President George W. Bush made the official description of the global anti-terrorism campaign.

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