King: US Intel Hasn't "Learned the Lessons"CBS News
January 6, 2010
Republican Congressman Peter King, said Wednesday that President Obama and his senior security agency chiefs had not learned the lessons taught by the failed Christmas Day bomb plot.
"I don't think they learned the lessons from this," King, of New York, told CBS "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez, one day after Mr. Obama chastised 20 intelligence and security officials in a private meeting at the White House.
Nigerian bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a threat, despite myriad intelligence leads, was a "stumble" that all government agencies were working hard to understand and prevent in the future.
"Everybody had already begun to up their game and everybody recognized the need to continue to do that," McDonough told Harry Smith. "We want to make sure we stay as agile as our enemy."
"This was more than a stumble," contested Rep. King. "This was really a glaring error."
King argued that President Obama and his closest advisers have been, "a day or two behind on all of this," noting the administration's retrospective move to stop sending former Guantanamo Bay prisoners home to Yemen — where Abudlmutallab was likely trained and equipped by al Qaeda.
The congressman said there had been a "real breakdown" in communications between America's intelligence agencies in recent months and that President Obama, "has to resolve that. He has to take firm steps here."
McDonough said there was "no question" that the security and intelligence chiefs lectured by Mr. Obama on Tuesday recognized the gravity of the failure in the Abdulmuttalab case.
"Many of them and many of their staffs have worked overtime over the course of the last 10 days or so to get to the bottom of what happened and learn lessons out of this and to make sure that we not only understand what happened, but that we get a lot better as a result of it," McDonough told Smith.
Asked whether his remarks were more than Republican rhetoric designed to cast the Democratic management of national security in a poor light, Rep. King said he had, "never made one partisan statement on terrorism" since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
"I've given the president credit," he told Rodriguez. "I think he's doing the right thing in Yemen. I think he's doing the right thing in Afghanistan. I think he's doing the right thing in extending the Patriot Act. But I think there are disconnects in his policy."
The lawmaker also took issue with McDonough's claim that there would be no inter-agency finger pointing over the intelligence gap. McDonough said all those present at the White House meeting on Tuesday "accepts responsibility, accepts accountability, and we won't jump to conclusions."
"They say it won't be the usual Washington blame game. Everyone who read the papers last week saw every one of those federal agencies involved; CIA, DNI, NCTC, all of them pointing fingers at one another," said King.
King did not suggest any specific measures the White House could take to improve the flow of intelligence across the various agencies, instead reiterating his call for Abdulmutallab to be immediately declared an enemy combatant — a move that would take the 23-year-old Nigerian out of the U.S. court system and put him into the secretive military justice system.
One of those 20, National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, told "The Early Show" just minutes prior to King's remarks that the failure to recognize