Bond, White House Spar Over Terrorism Disclosure

Posted February 5, 2010 at 2:31pm

Updated: Feb. 5, 7:28 p.m.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) has rejected a White House request for an apology after accusing the president of playing politics with the release of information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man allegedly behind the foiled Christmas Day airline attack.

Bond, the Intelligence vice chairman, on Friday dismissed a request by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to apologize for accusing Obama of trying to score political points by announcing that Abdulmutallab was cooperating with intelligence officials — a move that Bond said threatens the ability to protect ongoing intelligence operations.

“After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?” Bond said in a statement.

The Missouri Republican wrote a letter to Obama on Wednesday telling him that the White House’s announcement this week regarding the sudden cooperation by Abdulmutallab “has no doubt been helpful to his terrorist cohorts around the world.”

“FBI officials stressed the importance of not disclosing his cooperation in order to protect ongoing and follow-on operations to neutralize additional threats to the American public,” Bond said. He warned Obama “to consider the consequences of publicly disseminating sensitive information vital to the defense of the American people. I do not believe the American people want this information jeopardized to further political arguments.”

Bond’s letter came a day after intelligence officials testified in a Senate hearing that they expect another attempted terrorist attack against the United States in the coming months. In the letter, Bond blasts the release of information published by the White House on Tuesday night, the same day that FBI Director Robert Mueller told Bond that Abdulmutallab’s cooperation had to be kept secret.

But Gibbs hit back Thursday, saying information was already released during the Senate hearing that clearly showed Abdulmutallab was cooperating again. He chalked up Bond’s charge to politics.

“I would say, again, having read the letter, no briefing is done here or anywhere in this administration where classified information is used in a place where it shouldn’t be. And I would suggest that somebody that alleges that, when they know it doesn’t happen, owes people an apology,” Gibbs said during a briefing with reporters.

Added Gibbs: “I think anybody that was involved in knowing in the Senate Intelligence Committee what was briefed and what was reported would know that that wasn’t violated.

Gibbs noted Friday afternoon that he was invited to go on MSNBC to discuss the issue and said he would be “happy to go and suggested they invite Sen. Bond, which they did. But he had a ‘scheduling conflict.'”

Bond’s office continued the mudslinging Friday night with a statement explaining why the Senator couldn’t make the MSNBC interview.

“The senator is back in state talking to the folks who are sick of the spin coming out of the White House and want to know their leaders’ first priority is their security. He looks forward to discussing these vitally important issues directly with President Obama upon his invitation,” the statement reads.