Gibbs: Plane attack is nonpartisan issue

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said national security questions raised by the attempted bombing of Flight 253 should not spur political finger-pointing.

"This should not be a tug-of-war between the two political parties," Gibbs said Sunday on NBC. "I hope that everyone will resolve in the new year to make protecting our nation a nonpartisan issue."


The statements came after Republicans have placed blame on the Obama administration for not stopping a 23-year-old Nigerian man allegedly hiding explosives from boarding a U.S.-bound plane on Friday.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, both said Sunday that the attempted terrorist attack could have been prevented if proper security measures had been in place.

Gibbs said President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Politics must accept the reality of multiracial America and disavow racial backlash To empower parents, reinvent schools MORE has asked for two reviews: one on the watch-listing procedures, some of which are several years old, and the other on detection capabilities.

"The president has asked the Department of Homeland Security to, quite frankly, answer the very real question about how somebody with something as dangerous as PETN [the explosive used] could have gotten on a plane in Amsterdam," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellUS could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal MORE (R-Ky.), along with King and Hoekstra, said Sunday on ABC that he doesn't understand why the suspect was not on the no-fly list in the first place.

"It's amazing to me that an individual like this who was sending out so many signals could end up getting on a plane going to the U.S.," he said on "This Week."

Responding to that criticism, Gibbs said the suspect was on a watch list, which has about 550,000 names, as a result of the suspect's father alerting U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria about his son's radical Islamic views.

But that information was not enough to put the suspect on the narrower selected and no-fly lists, which contain about 14,000 and 4,000 names, respectively.

"The investigation will look backwards and figure out if any signs were missed, if any procedures can be changed about how names are watch-listed," he said. "But again...This is a database that contains 550,000 of those names. It's a huge number."

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Barrasso calls Biden's agenda 'Alice in Wonderland' logic: 'He's the Mad Hatter' MORE (R-Wyo.) said on Fox on Sunday afternoon that he wants to know how a person on any watch list could get a visa into the United States.

Gibbs declined to discuss whether the incident was part of a broader plan of attacks on the U.S.

The administration's reaction to the attack was supported by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who said on "Face the Nation" that he is "very satisfied" the president is "doing what he ought to do."

"The president in his response is doing exactly what he should do," Clyburn said on CBS. "Terrorists get more benefit from the reaction he caused than the action he takes."

This story was updated at 12:10 p.m.

Jordan Fabian contributed to this story