Sen. Bond, White House Spar over Abdulmutallab Investigation, Leaks

(AP)
The White House continues to fend off assertions that its handling of terrorist suspects and trials puts national security at further risk.

On Thursday, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), at left, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to President Obama admonishing the administration for disclosing details about recent cooperation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged Christmas Day bomber.

"I cannot understand, Mr. President, why the sudden cooperation by Abdulmutallab would be broadcast publicly to the media in detail when your intelligence chiefs are unanimously warning that another attack on our country is imminent. The release of this sensitive information has no doubt been helpful to his terrorist cohorts around the world," Bond wrote.

"FBI officials stressed the importance of not disclosing the fact of his cooperation in order to protect ongoing and follow-on operations to neutralize additional threats to the American public," he added.

Bond maintained that FBI Director Robert Mueller wanted to keep the fact of Abdulmutallab's cooperation quiet.

At about 6:00 PM ET on Thursday, CBS News learned that the cooperation led to a major revelation--U.S.-born Yemeni radical Anwar al-Awlaki directed Abdulmutallab to carry out the Christmas Day attack.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs countered that Bond's charge was political theater.

"I actually don't believe that he thinks that is a serious allegation. I think if you look at the letter that clearly this is about politics," Gibbs said. "No briefing is done here or anywhere in this administration where classified information is used in a place where it shouldn't be. And I would suggest that somebody that alleges that, when they know it doesn't happen, owes people an apology."

Special Report: The Christmas Day Terror Attack

Bond isn't about to apologize, and issued a terse statement: "After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I'm supposed to apologize?"

On Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chimed in, saying that the Obama administration treated Abdulmutallab "as if he had robbed a convenience store," and that CNN's Larry King "has interrogated people longer and better" than the FBI did in the initial interrogation of the bombing suspect.

These mostly partisan charges come after the White House defended its decision to charge Abdulmutallab in civilian court rather than the military system in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to McConnell and other Republican legislators.

In addition, the White House said it would consider local opposition when deciding where to hold Sept. 11 trials.


Daniel Farber is editor-in-chief of CBSNews.com.
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