House Democrats Scold No-Show Homeland Security Secretary: ‘Where the Hell is Secretary Napolitano?’
January 27, 2010 - 5:48 PMDemocrats on the House Homeland Security Committee scornfully reprimanded Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano today for failing to show up for a hearing the committee convened to examine the attempted Christmas Day suicide bombing of Northwest Flight 253.
That evening, Napolitiano did prominently show up at the Capitol to attend President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. But earlier in the day, she dispatched Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute to testify on her behalf in the Homeland Security Committee on what went wrong in the homeland-security process that allowed would-be suicide-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board a plane bound from Amsterdam to the Detroit.
The committee has primary oversight over Napolitano’s department, and top Democrats on the panel made it clear they were angry that she failed to show up for such an important hearing.
Appearing on CNN two days after the attempted Christmas Day suicide bombing, Napolitano had said: “And one thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked.” Republican sources on the committee said they believe Napolitano did not show up today because she did not want to explain why she said those words.
Democrats openly expressed their dismay with Napolitano as the hearing proceeded. Rep. Chris Carney (D.-Pa.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight, said during his question period: “I am very dismayed that the Secretary herself isn’t here. I mean it’s probably fair to ask: “Where the Hell is Secretary Napolitano?”
Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence, said: "I would like to welcome our witnesses but comment on the absence of Secretary Napolitano. This is the committee with primary jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security. She is the secretary of Homeland Security. She is in Washington, D.C. She was invited to testify at this very important hearing, and she should have been here. … I am very personally disappointed that she isn’t here.”
Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D.-Miss.) rebuked Napolitano for a lack of courtesy in dealing with the committee. Thompson said during the hearing that he had spoken with Napolitano just two days before and that there had been no discussion of her not attending. He did not want his committee to be “misled,” he said, added that the committee had first been told that Napolitano could not attend because she would be out of the country, then discovered that she was in fact in Washington, D.C. but would not attend anyway.
“I don’t want the committee to be misled,” said Thompson. “Now, I talked with the secretary two days ago. We did not talk about her non-attendance or attendance at this hearing. Staff did communicate, based on a directive that we received that the secretary would not be here, and we worked on Assistant Secretary Lute’s presence. That changed, and, at a minimum, based on that change, somebody could have communicated back to the committee one way or the other that we told that you weren’t going to be here, we are here now, but we still can’t come because of some other things. That is the courtesy, I think, the committee still deserves. It does not require comment.”