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Brennan Fed Up With Politics Played Over Christmas Day Bomber

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FILE: Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan briefs reporters at the White House on Jan. 7, 2010, as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano looks on. (REUTERS)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser expressed frustration with Washington on Sunday, saying Republicans are playing politics on national security and making ignorant allegations about the investigation into the Christmas airliner plot.

Saying congressional Republicans are using a "500-mile screwdriver" to criticize the administration about its response to the failed attack in Detroit, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said the GOP is motivated by partisan purposes and second-guessing the case.

"Quite frankly, I'm tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football," Brennan said. "They are going out there. They're unknowing of the facts. And they're making charges and allegations that are not anchored in reality."

The fact that Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda Rights is being tried in civilian court instead of a military one has become a big issue on Capitol Hill. Many Republicans say Abdulmutallab belongs in miltiary court under a different set of rules. 

And Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, accused the White House of its own political games for revealing that Abdulmutallab was talking to interrogators after saying he had clammed up after being read his rights in the first hour of his containment.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said it's not possible to take Brennan's claim seriously that the administration consulted Republicans when its own FBI director, national intelligence chief and homeland security secretary were all out of the loop. 

"The mishandling of this case is the Obama administration's failure, and they have no one to blame but themselves. President Obama failed to respond after the terrorist attack at Fort Hood, and failed to respond immediately after the terrorist attack in Detroit," Hoekstra said in a statement. "Instead of lashing out politically and attempting to deflect blame, Obama and his advisers need to settle on a coherent and rational national security strategy to help secure our homeland."

But Brennan said he personally briefed top GOP lawmakers on Christmas night about Abdulmutallab's arrest and that none of them raised objections.

"There's been quite a bit of an outcry after the fact, where again, I'm just very concerned on behalf of counterterrorism professionals throughout our government, that politicians continue to make this a political football and are using it for whatever political or partisan purposes," he said.

Brennan added that the FBI and others involved in his arrest acted appropriately.

"I think those counterterrorism professionals deserve the support of our Congress," he said. "And rather than second-guessing what they are doing on the ground with a 500-mile screwdriver from Washington to Detroit, I think they have to have confidence in the knowledge and the experience of these counterterrorism professionals."

But Bond said he wasn't critical of law enforcement or counterterrorism authorities. He was peeved that the White House gave a briefing to reporters after he was personally asked by FBI Director Robert Mueller not to reveal the details of Abdulmutallab's cooperation.

And Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee who starred in this weekend's Tea Party Convention in Nashville told "Fox News Sunday" that the president shouldn't treat terrorists the way he would common criminals. 

"He is treating the trials of these terrorists and kind of as gosh, they're on a crime spree right now. No, we are in war," Palin said. "We need to treat them a little bit differently than an American who is worthy -- an American being worthy of our U.S. constitutional rights. I don't think the terrorists are worthy of our rights that people like my son fight and are willing to die for." 

Administration officials say Abdulmutallab is part of a new breed of terrorist trained by splinter groups of Al Qaeda, which in some ways makes them harder to track if not as powerful.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she doesn't think Al Qaeda is stronger than it was at Sept. 11, 2001, though the threat hasn't gone away. 

"I don't see them as stronger, but I see that they are more creative, more flexible, more agile. They evolve. ... They are unfortunately a very committed, clever diabolical group of terrorists," Clinton told CNN's "State of the Union. 

"We have contained it. We have worked very hard to do so. But over the last six months, we have seen attacks foiled, people arrested and charged. So that you have to be constantly vigilant, and that's what everybody working in this government at all levels attempts to do," she added. 

Clinton added that the "biggest nightmare: would be if any member groups in this "syndicate of terror" got their hands on a weapon of mass destruction.

Brennan's comments came a day after Obama urged Democrats to work with Republicans, telling those attending the Democratic Party's winter meeting that "we can't solve all of our problems alone." The president offered a similar message to a recent gathering of House Republicans.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Brennan said he was confident that the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would face the "full weight of American justice" when he is tried no matter what the venue.

The administration had wanted to try Mohammed in New York but backtracked on that plan under criticism, which has included calls for him to be tried by a military tribunal and not a civilian court.

"I have no doubt that the American justice system will prevail. Despite the claims and the criticisms of a lot of folks, including in Congress, that our judicial system is unable to handle these terrorists, I believe that our system of justice here is strong," Brennan said.

"And I'm not going to give Al Qaeda the victory of being able to overturn our system of jurisprudence here that is anchored in our Constitution and reflects our values as a people," he said.

Fox News' Caroline Shively and The Associated Press contributed to this report.