McCain, Lieberman: Those who let 12/25 suspect through should be punished

Two senators said Sunday that despite President Barack Obama saying the buck stops with him on the Christmas Day bombing attempt, disciplinary action should be taken against those who let Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab slip through the cracks and get on the Detroit-bound flight.

"People should be held responsible for what happened," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "And we can't go back to the old Washington kind of routine, we are all responsible so therefore nobody is responsible. Somebody has got to be held responsible."

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His friend and ally on national security issues, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), agreed.

"I think some people have to be held accountable for the mistakes, the human errors that the president acknowledged that were made, that enabled that Nigerian terrorist to get on that plane to Detroit, and we've got to change some things in the system," the Homeland Security Committee chairman said.

When pressed on just which heads should roll, Lieberman said that would be shown by the investigation.

"But the point is that it seems to me clear that, beginning with the Department of State when the father came into our embassy in Nigeria, not only should that name have been sent to the National Counterterrorism Center, but somebody should have checked the visa list and immediately pulled that terrorist's visa, so he never got on that plane," Lieberman said. "Secondly, at the National Counterterrorism Center, something went wrong. That's the place we created after 9/11. It served us very well, but it did not in this case.

"So if human errors were made, I think some of the humans who made those errors have to be disciplined so that they never happen again."

Lieberman stressed that al-Qaeda had made more than a dozen attempts to attack the United States in the past year, and "three of them broke through our defenses; two of them successfully killing people" -- the slaying of an Army recruiter in Arkansas, the Fort Hood shooting spree and the Dec. 25 attempt to take down Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which averted disaster "only by act of God," he said.

"In this war, we cannot set any goal less than 100 percent success," Lieberman said.

McCain commended Obama's remarks on the Christmas attack last week as "a departure from his language before," but said that the decision to try 23-year-old Abdulmutallab in civilian court instead of a military tribunal showed the president's actions didn't match his words.


"To have a person be able to get lawyered up when we need that information very badly, I think, betrays or contradicts the president's view that we are at war," the Arizona senator said.

Lieberman and McCain spoke live from Jerusalem, where they are wrapping up a recess trip that has taken the pair to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Israel.

Lieberman said that he was satisfied after their visit that Pakistan "is a full partner in the war on terrorism," and noted that the Pakistani military might take some action against terrorists in the lawless North Waziristan region.

McCain said he was satisfied with the progress that the senators saw in Iraq, and stressed that no Americans were killed there in the month of December.

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