Brennan: GOP Leaders Didn’t Raise Concern About Handling of Terrorist Suspect

Posted February 7, 2010 at 10:40am

Updated: 12:35 p.m.

Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan on Sunday defended the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber, accusing Republicans of attempting to use national security issues as a “political football.”

“I’m tiring of politicians using national security issues as a political football,” Brennan said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Brennan noted that he briefed Intelligence ranking member Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other leading Republicans shortly after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s arrest and that none of those lawmakers raised concerns at the time.

“None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that time … there’s been quite a bit of an outcry after the fact,” Brennan said, complaining that “politicians continue to use this as a political football and use this for whatever political purposes.”

Although Republicans have complained that the administration inappropriately gave Abdulmutallab protections under the Constitution, Brennan noted that the process used for handling him was the same as that used in previous terrorism cases.

“He wasn’t treated as an ordinary citizen. He was treated as a terrorist,” he said, adding, “He was then put in to a process that’s been used for every other terrorist that’s been captured on U.S. soil … there was absolutely no distinction.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, said Sunday that while terrorist threats continue against the U.S., they do not appear to be any more significant now than in the past several years.

During an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Clinton noted, “We have had a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related terrorist organization … you have to be constantly vigilant.”

But Clinton dismissed concerns that terrorist threats have increased in the last month, arguing that the Christmas Day bomber has only made public concern more acute. “Because of the high-profile attempt on the plane, people’s attention became very focused. But [an Osama] bin Laden tape is nothing new … I think it’s very important for people to go about their daily lives,” Clinton argued, adding that calculating the intensity of threats is impossible.

“It’s very difficult to make that kind of an assessment. They’ve always been plotting against us,” she said.