WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser on Sunday lashed out at U.S. lawmakers, accusing them of using national security issues as a “political football” for their own gains.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of making mistakes in the handling of the arrest of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who is accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plan on Christmas Day.
“Quite frankly I’m tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as political football. They’re going out there, they’re unknowing of the facts, and they’re making charges and allegations that are not anchored in reality,” John Brennan told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
By charging Abdulmutallab in a criminal court and giving him legal rights, Republicans have argued that it prevented the intelligence community from obtaining information from him on al Qaeda and possible future U.S. terrorist attacks.
Brennan revealed that he briefed Republican lawmakers, including Senator Christopher Bond, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, soon after the arrest on the handling of the suspect and they did not raise any concerns.
“They were told about the fact of that cooperation as well as some information he was sharing,” 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?”
In a statement, Bond said if Brennan had told him of plans to read the suspect his legal rights, commonly called Miranda rights in the United States, he would have told him it was a mistake.
“The truth is that the administration did not even consult our intelligence chiefs ... 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,” Bond said.
Brennan said he would not compromise investigations by revealing sensitive intelligence information.
“There have been instances where information is shared with the Hill and we see it in the paper the next day,” Brennan said, adding that FBI officials had appropriately handled the arrest.
“Those counterterrorism professionals deserve the support of our Congress and, rather than second-guessing what they are doing on the ground,” he said.
The office of House Republican Leader John Boehner said in a statement that Brennan made a short phone call to the lawmaker on Christmas Day but did not say the suspect would be read his Miranda rights.
“The courtesy call certainly does not remotely qualify as a ‘briefing,’” Boehner’s office said, adding that Brennan gave “no substantive information” on the arrest.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman