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. a

    this guy is a clown... he needs to get voted out of the office

    January 31, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  2. markiejoe

    Does Mitch McConnell realize that he's old and outdated and that his time has passed? Someone should tell him he's an anachronism. Time to retire.

    January 31, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  3. Will Work for Health Care

    We're all painfully aware this wan't the only time Bush was "mistaken".

    January 31, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  4. DN

    These guys are common criminals. They deserve a criminal trial, and to be jailed as criminals. By evelating them to some kind of special staus does nothing but add to their mystique and status as heroes and "martyrs" among their ilk. No other Western country deals with Islamic extremists as anything but the criminals they are, and they seem to have the problem contained at least as well as the US. Also, by treating the perpetrators as criminals who are committing crimes helps dismiss the idea that they are being persceuted because of their race or religion. What other type of lawbreaker gets a special trial, special prison, special evidence?

    January 31, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  5. Tram

    Wait a minute - a GOPer is ADMITTING that Bush was wrong? That he made a mistake?

    Is there be a well known hot place that now has ice skaters in existence?

    January 31, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  6. Matthew

    We have to try these terrorist in civilian courts! If we don't then we aren't living up to our own principles of law.

    Think about it this way, in Iran they allow American citizens to face a trial in Iranian courts (I understand their courts may not be fair). The point is, even in countries with dictators they still follow the rule of law.

    For America to all of the sudden stop following our own laws and hold people without giving them a trial violates everything we believe in. Surely we are better than that.

    January 31, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. X

    Republicans are hypocrites and full of it.

    January 31, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. dude palin

    Total bull mitch !!

    January 31, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  9. RKDMallard

    All these people claiming these people are not entitled to Constituional rights. Saying these people were caught on a battlefield etc. Saying they are POW's in the "War on Terror".
    There is one thing clear in the Constitution, how a war is legally declared! Congress has not declared war so they are captives of an illegal war.

    January 31, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. Proud DEM

    OMG!! Here we go with the Rethug mentality....When they push and push the issue that our Pres Obama has not focused on jobs enough....Pres. Obama makes that commitment to focus more on the job issue at their little Rethug gathering the other day...Now, here is another issue they say he is failing on...when will this crap stop...Mr. President cannot do anything right in the little minds of these hypocritical, rhetoric spewing arses.....Mr. President, they will never accept you or your agenda..no matter what you do that is positive for the American people...they care only about themselves..period!!

    January 31, 2010 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  11. Michael

    Republicans are "HYPOCRITES." This philosophy of "do as I say not as I do" is childish, immature and very partisan politics! Republicans are responsible for 1.3 trillion in yearly debt, over 8 trillion in deficit, Afganhistan and Iraq Wars, nuclear conflicts with North Korea and Iran, Wall street, Banking, Auto, Mortage and Healthcare Crisis! Yet, the American public is acting like their policies will take us to the promise land! The eight trillion deficit is a result of, Medicare, Disability Insurance, 2.5 trillion in tax cuts, 2 Wars which were not paid for! But, the "Republicans" talking points are the answer to Americas problems! IS EVERYBODY IN AMERICAN TAKEN IN TO MUCH LEAD IN THEIR WATER?

    January 31, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  12. Dianne

    I am tired of hearing the lie about how the government didnot learned from the Christmas terrorist because of having rights. Do you really buy that? If McConnell and the rest cannot be openly question, I know their is a lie in his mouth. Do you think our government can tell what they learned? No, the government can't. McConnelll and the rest of the repub know this and use it as talking point. Why did the repub not ask the President at their meeting in the open? Because they know America learned something and cannot make public which plays into the repubs hand.McConnell what about your fellow party members the congressmman from Utah, Joe Willon,and Bachman making sure we donot use full body scans last year. Where was his complaing about that security fact.

    January 31, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  13. RKDMallard

    Why do we always say Bush kept the country safe for 7 years after 9/11, but, you never hear anyone say Clinton kept the country safe for 7 years after the first WTC attack?

    January 31, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  14. Mike

    Maybe they should start with seeing if Bush can be tried in a civilian court for 8 years of lying to the American people.

    January 31, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  15. A disgusted former Republican

    McConnell doesn't seem to be too coherent today. He now says the Bush administration was mistaken to try terrorists in federal court. It sure took him a long time to come to this realization. Do you think his argument would have been more plausible had he made it while President Bush was still in office?

    McConnell now wants to try all terrorists in military commissions which he says were set up by Congress “for the specific purpose of trying foreigners captured on the battlefield.” The problem is that many of those he wants to try were not captured on the battlefield. The underwear bomber is a good example.

    Do you think McConnell is suffering from dementia or is he just incapable of intelligent thought?

    January 31, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  16. annie against biased news

    Although Bush made a mistake in doing that – it was that – just a mistake. Our now so-called president loves terrorist and is doing it so hopefully they can be released.

    January 31, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  17. republicans hate america

    then only thing that was a mistake was allowing the rush limbaugh party to steal 2 elections causing the 9/11 attacks and 2 wars.

    January 31, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  18. Sarah

    What part of the last election do you Republicans not understand? We didn't like the way Bush/Cheney Started the Iraq War. taking in any and every thought to be terroist and putting them in Gitmo, giving them NO trials just holding them there at Bush/Cheney's whims.....all the while making the rest of the World Hate us.....not to mention the debt that Administration ran us into......did you have the guts to stand up and say anything to them then? NO.....so sit down now and shut your mouth

    January 31, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  19. Amy

    McConnell is old and rich – this is the reason I believe "Term-Limits" need to be set and fast. Ole people, and foolishness just doesn't mix dem or repub....

    January 31, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  20. FEDUPWITHFEAR IN hOUSTON

    I'm sick and tired of the GOP lionizing losers. Federal Criminal court is the correct place for these jerks. This is just same old partisan politics of Washington. We need Term Limits

    January 31, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  21. katy Heys

    The Republicans are not interested in anything but taking down the President. They have no ideas, and they haven't had any for over 8 years. They have some nerve after the train wreck of the GWB administration.

    January 31, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  22. Dianne

    The USA upholds democracy as the number one chosen government for the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, so now we tell the world you must be a citizen to reap the rewards of a democracy? Is that what the republicans are preaching while the sent our troops to fight in these countries and nation build for democracy but yet afraid the system will not work using the judicial system? Pure hypocritical.

    January 31, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  23. Mr Joshua

    Listen,
    I was there at ground Zero during 9/11. Do you know what a "Jumper" was? It was regular people trapped by the fires at the World Trade center They had a decision to make....Jump or burn.

    I am not going to lecture anyone. In my mind I find it difficult to think anyone from a foreign land that are not included in the Constitution "WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES" Is entitled to receive these rights. Enlighten me to where I am wrong because I find it difficult to assume I would get the same rights in other countries. Educate me please.................

    January 31, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  24. Will

    We tried Ramzi Yousif (the person who did the 1993 WTC bombing) without a hitch. Why not anybody else?

    January 31, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  25. chop

    After 8 years of torturing a prisoner, no charges, no lawyer, just to name a few. How can you try them in any court.

    January 31, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
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