But when National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter corrected the senator, McCain didn't seem happy, admonishing Leiter, who ended up apologizing.
Here's a rough transcript exchange, in which Leiter also corrects McCain's suggestion that Abdulmutallab bought his ticket in Copenhagen (he didn't) and that a cash purchase (routine in Africa) should have been a red flag. The must-watch video is below.
MCCAIN: I think everybody knows the facts of the Christmas bomber . a person buys a ticket with cash -- one way ticket -- his father has already warned the CIA. a series of missteps have taken place lead to this near-tragedy. ...
It's fairly clear the facts of what happened, isn't it ?
LEITER: Well, actually, I think many of the facts are clear. I would correct the record on a couple of points. In fact, the fact is not that he bought a one-way ticket, he bought a round-trip ticket. The fact that he used cash frankly is in Africa completely and utterly
MCCAIN (interrupting Leiter): That was in Copenhagen, not Africa
LEITER: Ah, no sir. I believe he bought the
MCCAIN: If you think -- if you're defending that we shouldn't have been alerted to this individual, sir, then ...
LEITER: Senator, I apologize.
The "one-way ticket" meme was bouncing around the media for weeks after Christmas, thanks to early quotes from anonymous U.S. officials that were repeated again and again as fact.
The Obama Administration even made a point of telling congressional aides in a briefing a week ago that Abdulmutallab was not traveling on a one-way ticket. But McCain apparently didn't get the memo.