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Obama official accuses GOP of using terrorism as ‘political football’

President Obama’s deputy national security advisor accused Republicans on Sunday of using national security as a “political football” and of being disingenuous in criticizing the treatment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the Christmas Day airliner attack.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” John Brennan was asked about GOP criticism that the Obama administration was treating the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane as a routine criminal case rather than a terrorist plot.

Brennan said he was “tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football. They are going out there. . . unknowing of the facts, and they’re making charges and allegations that are not anchored in reality.”

Republicans have said that Abdulmutallab, 23, should have been treated as an enemy combatant.

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Administration officials say he spoke to FBI agents for about 50 minutes, then received medical treatment for burns suffered when he allegedly tried to ignite explosives hidden in his underwear. Afterward, they say, he refused to keep talking, so authorities advised him of his right to remain silent and that anything he said could be used against him in court. Since then, Abdulmutallab has reportedly begun cooperating again.

That has not interrupted Republican criticism, however. The GOP objects to the Obama administration’s policy that all terrorism suspects go through the civilian judicial system.

On Sunday, Brennan described a private briefing he delivered to four senior Republican lawmakers Christmas night. He said he told them Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody -- a status, he said, that meant Abdulmutallab had been made aware of his legal rights, including the Miranda warning.

“None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point,” Brennan said. “They didn’t say, ‘Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?’ They were very appreciative of the information. We told them we’d keep them informed, and that’s what we did.”

But at least two of those Republicans -- Sen. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan -- disputed Brennan’s version of events.

A statement by Hoekstra’s office said the congressman had “a brief, nonsecure conversation with Brennan. Brennan only informed him that Abdulmutallab had severe burns and was being treated. Contrary to what he attempts to imply, he at no time informed Hoekstra that Abdulmutallab had been Mirandized, nor did he seek Hoekstra’s consultation or provide any sort of meaningful briefing.”

In an interview Sunday with CBS’s Katie Couric, Obama noted that Abdullah was read his rights only after he stopped talking, and that under the George W. Bush administration, shoe bomber Richard Reid was read his rights five minutes after his arrest.

Asked if the practice of Mirandizing terrorism suspects should be reviewed, Obama said, “Absolutely, everything should be reviewed.”

peter.nicholas@ latimes.com


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