House Republicans Assail White House Briefing on Christmas Day Bomber

Feb 3, 2010 12:34pm

ABC News' Huma Khan reports: Republican House members today panned the White House for “hastily” arranging a briefing between reporters and senior administration officials Tuesday to share details about the alleged Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, before lawmakers were notified. Senior administration officials told reporters that Abdulmuttalab began sharing intelligence with authorities last Thursday, after some of his family members were dispatched by the FBI from Nigeria to get him to start cooperating. In a hearing with Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence questioned the timing of the disclosure and accused the White House of “political cover.” “I do find it an interesting strategy that we hastily call a briefing to let America and our friends and our enemies in the Middle East know that he’s now singing like a canary,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “I can’t think of a reason why that would happen other than political cover,” charged Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. Blair said he would not comment on the “internal processes” for this investigation and does not want to “go into the political side of it,” but he did say he was surprised by the “combination of reality and politics” in this issue. “I just can’t control all of the politics,” Blair said. “I just wanted to protect the country.” Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, suggested that the White House’s decision to hold the briefing may have been prompted by a leak, and that administration officials “wanted to mitigate the damage.” — Huma Khan UPDATE: White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said today the intent of the briefing Tuesday evening was to let Americans "know that we're doing everything possible to keep the American people safe." “I would just say that before there was criticism from Republicans that what we were doing wasn't working. Now that people find out that what we're doing is working, they're criticizing the fact that we're saying that what's working is working," Burton told reporters. "Look, nothing came out last night that compromises any of the investigations or any of the interrogations that are currently ongoing. We feel like we pursued the correct course in interrogating Abdulmuttalab. And through that course, we've gotten quite a bit of information that's been helpful both to the United States and some of our foreign partners in keeping the American people safe.” Burton added that “it’s Washington” and "there’s a lot of politics that gets played.”

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