January 31st, 2010
06:56 PM ET
4 years ago

McConnell: Bush was mistaken to try terrorists in civilian court

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took issue Sunday with many of the Obama administration's policies relating to treatment of alleged terrorists.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took issue Sunday with many of the Obama administration's policies relating to treatment of alleged terrorists.

Washington (CNN) – The leading Republican in the Senate said Sunday that the previous Republican administration had been mistaken in ever trying alleged terrorists in civilian federal courts.

“The only time [the Obama] administration ever cites the previous administration for a precedent is to mention that there were some terrorists tried in U.S. courts,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Sunday on State of the Union.

“We now know that was a mistake,” declared McConnell. “That was a mistake by the previous administration. The other mistake they made that shouldn’t be replicated by this administration is letting too many people go from Guantanamo.”

Instead of giving alleged terrorists civilian trials in federal court, McConnell said the administration should use the system of military commissions set up by Congress “for the specific purpose of trying foreigners captured on the battlefield.”

“They ought to be tried in these military commissions. They also ought to be detained at Guantanamo,” the Senate Minority Leader said.

The Obama administration has missed its own self-imposed one-year deadline for closing the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were a number of suspected terrorists have been held after being captured. Last week, the White House also began to signal that it was rethinking its plans to hold a high-profile trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks, in Manhattan federal court not far from Ground Zero. The turnabout on the Obama administration’s part regarding the trial came after elected officials and business people in New York City raised concerns about security and the high costs of protecting the city during such a large-scale event.

“What we need to do is to deny these people a show trial,” McConnell also said Sunday in a reference to what some observers believe would be a media circus if Mohammed is tried in an open civilian court. “We need to proceed to interrogate them,” McConnell added.

“This is really dangerous nonsense,” McConnell said of the Obama administration’s policies regarding treatment of alleged terrorists. “We have a way to do it, John,” McConnell told CNN’s John King. “Interrogate them. Detain them and try them in military commissions offshore at Guantanamo from which no one has ever escaped.”

Asked whether he was ready to deny the White House the funding necessary to close the Guantanamo Bay facility and move detainees held there to a location somewhere in the United States, McConnell responded, “Absolutely.” He predicted that there would be bipartisan support in Congress for withholding the funding.

soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. JohnnyYuma

    It's all about Republicans and Democrats.
    Just remember that an incumbent is a politician with a criminal record.

    January 31, 2010 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  2. Mike K

    Another conservative law and order type who has no faith in our judicial system. How absolutely pathetic is this.

    January 31, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  3. marty

    My level of distrust towards M. McConnell and some of his colleagues in the minority party is ....red.....bright red!

    January 31, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  4. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Republicans have always been willing to talk about "Reagan years" but just completely skip over Bush years in their attempt to make President Obama responsible for all Bush mistakes because they voted 100% with Bush. If one can't see what lying scumb bags they are, I don't know what it takes.

    January 31, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. Don in Kansas

    what a typical politician.....sure didn't hear from ole Mitch when Bush was in office!

    January 31, 2010 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  6. GOPers@Rstupid.com

    More hypocracy from the Senate leader of the party of "no".

    January 31, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  7. Barney CT

    I'm actually impressed that Mitch McConnell came out and admitted the Bush administration made mistakes by letting some terrorists go to trial in a non-military courts. I'm also surprised to find myself agreeing with him. I hope the Obama administration changes course and follows Mitch's advice. Mitch has the right idea on this one.

    But I do have a nagging question. Before getting into politics was Mitch McConnell a ventriloquist? I've never seen his upper lip move. Not once. Not even a little bit.

    January 31, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  8. P. D.

    If it was a mistake for Bush to do it, then why didn't the Republicans complain then? Give me a break! Republicans are fear-mongering, as usual.

    January 31, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  9. John E Lexington KY

    When Bush was in office, McConnell shoved through every terrible destructive piece of his agenda he proposed, huge unwanted tax cuts for the top 1%, free rein for banks to become casinos, the Iraq War – excepting turning Social Security into a gamble. Now he's found the one thing he was mistaken to support.

    The Republican Party gets it's notion of the law from a Classics comic book about The Crusades. Or thinks that's what will win voters. Their sense of justice is remarkably similar to the present Iranian government.

    January 31, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  10. marian in nc

    McConnell maybe afraid something the dishonest sneaky GOP do not want the American public to hear... He is protesting very loudly!!!

    January 31, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  11. John

    Another turn around and just because McConnell can oppose it. Why didn't he say this several years ago? What a piece of poop!
    Hypocrites!

    January 31, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  12. dragontrlr

    i am a staunch republican but i am in complete disagreement here with the party. acts of terrorism have been tried in civilian courts for decades. of course maybe since 9/11 was actually one of the first "successful" attacks we feel differently? in this country we have a constitution and we follow it and enforce it regardless of how others treat us. this is what separates us. just as in war we have a code of conduct, we have a code when we treat our prisoners. this is how we are this is what makes us great. we must follow our laws not our hearts.

    January 31, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  13. Justin

    "The Constitution does not apply to non-citizens" is a complete fallacy being spewed forth by people who are talking out of their anus! The Supreme Court has upheld the fact that basic Constitutional principals of Due Process and Habeas Corpus DO apply to non-citizens. So, it is YOU Mr. "Wake Up..." that is showing your ignorance. The amazing thing is that people like you are too blind to see that by advocating the establishment of an increasingly Authoritarian state, people like YOU are playing right into the terrorists' hands. Al Qaeda is well aware of the fact that they cannot destroy the United States physically. While killing Americans is certainly a goal, that goal is secondary. Their primary goal is to instill fear, hoping that it will lead us to change our way of life, gradually surrender our freedoms in order to feel "safe." Our wayward response to 9/11 has gone beyond their wildest dreams. They are winning, and it's idiots like McConnell who are enabling them.

    January 31, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  14. tmart

    I really don't care anymore what you have to say about anything at all, Mr. McConnell. I used to blame Boehner in the House for Republican intransigence. Now I am enlightened and know that you yourself are just as much to blame for Republican uselessness.

    January 31, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  15. Paul Hogue

    First of all, those that are jumping on the bandwagon for military tribunals, please keep in mind that they are failures. What? That's right, failures. Mitch McConnell didn't say why it was a mistake to try KSM because he has nothing to back up that statement. You know how many convictions the tribunals have given us? Three. That's right, look it up...three. You know how many received time in prison? One. That was bin Laden's driver, and he got less than a year.

    McConnell didn't speak up and criticize President Bush the several times his Justice Dept tried terrorists because it wasn't the "How can we attack a Democrat?" issue of the day. There are legitimate criticisms of the decision, and the process, but going right for the "trials invite terrorism and tribunals get convictions" argument is bogus.

    Moussaoui, KSM, bin Laden and his ilk are a bunch of thugs. We try thugs in this country, not because it's easy, but because we're a nation of laws.

    January 31, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. johnharry

    thank god Darth Cheney is gone. If the trials were such a priority why were they not finished before the end of the dark overlords term ?

    January 31, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  17. Jerry

    Let's see,

    Obama (D), GW Bush (R), HW Bush(R), Clinton (D), Regan (R) all tried terrorists as exactly what they are - "criminals" in American courts.

    Bipartisan to say the least.

    The Republicans are ignoring their own history.

    January 31, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  18. alexmatiella@hotmail.com

    Totally unconstitutional! The Repubs are the most anti-constitutional, anti-American group in America.

    The citizens who died in 911 were not on a battlefield. The Christmas bomber guy was in plane, not on a battlefield. This isn't about terrorists' rights, this is about upholding the foundation of this country – the U.S. Constitution. If we start looking for loopholes in the Constitution now, where will it end?

    Oh yeah, and not providing health care to American citizens is also unconstitutional.

    Republicans = America's #1 enemy

    January 31, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  19. Libertarian

    In order for them to be tried in a Military Court the country would have had to be at war and the "combatants" captured on the battlefield.

    There was NO WAR going on at the time of the 9/11 attacks. These terrorists should be tried in Federal Court. Unless you want Americans in foreign countries to be rounded up and tried in foreign military courts, we must follow the law.

    What we allow, we teach.

    January 31, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  20. JP

    The Party of No once again rises to the occasion.

    January 31, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  21. NoName

    It seems there are only a few options for dealing with POWs. They could be released, in which case many would likely return to the battlefield to kill more American soldiers. Alternatively we could give them "due process" in the judicial system, which would cost taxpayers a lot of money which could be better spent in other areas like healthcare or getting Americans back to work. Even if they are eventually convicted, the high-profile nature of the case will only likely only energize the enemy. They could be tried in the military court, but the perception is that these trials are not fair anyway. None of these options have favorable outcomes. There is one other option that doesn't cost taxpayers huge legal fees, prevents high-profile court cases, keeps American soldiers out of harm's way, and keeps combatants from coming back on the field. It's called Global Hawk and Predator. Maybe we should start treating enemy combatants like enemy combatants while they are still on the battlefield, rigging up IEDs and firing at American soldiers?

    January 31, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  22. Nevada dude

    Good going Tippy Turtle, you and your GOP thugs have been pushing for years that your way is the right way and now you are admitting that you were wrong. which comes as no surprise to any one who is semi-rational about things.

    And its rational minds that again have to straighten out Partisan misinformation about what having a Federal trial is about. It is NOT about affording someone Constitutional rights- rather it is about affording someone due process, a fair trial by the people that the person attacked. that speaks volumes to what America stands for: Justice, Fairness, Law. it shows that we have the moral high ground, not some barbaric lust for retribution. Of course if you hypocritical actually read your Bibles you would see that is what god says should be done.

    January 31, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  23. Joshua

    It's funny, McConnell provides zero constitutional or historical backup to validate his claims. He is treading way out of his depth. Why does he hate American justice, the very system that the rest of the world is so jealous of?
    BTW, Obama ran on closing Gitmo and having true American justice for terrorists. Guess what, he won! The people have spoken already on this issue.

    January 31, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  24. karkri

    how does this idiot now "know" it was a mistake? because the Bush regime is now over, this fool now got religion?

    January 31, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  25. Jazz

    I have a question for all of you bleeding hard nut jobs posting on this forum. I assume most of you are gun-ho about helping out the people of Haiti, but how was trying to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan any different. In all three places the vast majority of the people are or were suffering greatly because of people and events outside of their control. Sending in our military to help one is bad but in the other is okay. Do you think our military will only be in Haiti for 1 month??? If so think again.

    January 31, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
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