Republicans Say Brennan Briefing Wasn’t Comprehensive

Posted February 7, 2010 at 1:31pm

Republican leaders on Sunday denied they were fully briefed by White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan on the arrest of Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, charging the Christmas Day call was scant on details and little more than a “courtesy call.”

During an interview on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Brennan accused Republicans of using the issue as a “political football,” arguing they did not raise concerns with the administration’s decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab during a briefing call with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Intelligence ranking member Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and others.

“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.”

But Republicans flatly denied Brennan’s claims. One GOP aide called the discussion little more than a “courtesy call” and said that it lasted for only a few short minutes, was conducted on nonsecured phone lines — including Boehner’s cell phone — and that Brennan only informed the lawmakers that Abdulmutallab had been taken into custody.

“This administration, and this administration alone, made the dangerous decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and treat him as a common criminal, not a terrorist, and it did so without even consulting our intelligence chiefs. Instead of attempting to dodge responsibility, John Brennan and this administration should focus on fixing the near-catastrophic intelligence breakdown that failed to prevent this attack,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart agreed, charging that Brennan is simply attempting to shift focus way from the handling of the case.

“John Brennan, the official who suggested the administration would offer the Nigerian bomber a plea bargain in order to gain his cooperation, is clearly trying to shift the focus away from the fact that their bad decisions gave terrorists in Yemen a weeks-long head start. During a brief call from the White House, Sen. McConnell was given a heads-up that Abdulmutallab was in custody, but little else. He wasn’t told of the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab,” Stewart said.