January 31st, 2010
06:56 PM ET
5 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. aware

    Right on all counts! :)

    January 31, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. normajean

    SO NOW THE REPUBLICANS ARE SECOND GUESSING THEMSELVES. WELL...IT'S ABOUT TIME. It's amazing when you stand back and look at yourself the way others see you. It's quite a surprise if you're honest., If you don't like what you see, you attempt to change....but I wouldn't hold my breath on this one.The Republicans are always looking for change............in the other guy.!....... ..... The legalities of this action, we who are without legal knowledge will leave it
    to the courts to decide, ...As to the Republicans .Heaven help us.

    January 31, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. valwayne

    We've learned from the mistakes of 9/11 and right after that murdering terrorists should be tried by military tribunals not civilian courts. Because Bush made some mistakes is no reason to repeat them. The American people are tired of the mess Obama is making of National Security. Stop wasting millions of dollars and hold military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay! Also Fire Eric Holder. Anybody who thought that Circus trials in NYC costing a billion dollars and reading the underwear bomber his right to be silent instead of interrogating him were good ideas should not be our Government. Yes I know that includes Obama, but he's the President. We can't fire him until 2012, but we can get rid of his insane advisors!

    January 31, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  4. WAHEID

    With people like Mitch McConnell in the Senate, is it any wonder that the legislative branch has become dysfunctional? Someone please wake me when this nightmare is over.

    January 31, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    The Republicans think that they're still in charge. The have not accepted that they and their tried-and-failed policies were shown the door in November 2008.

    Just what kind of Americans are they, that they want our President and our country to fail, in a desperate attempt to regain control? How can anyone believe that Republicans care about anyone or anything except themselves?

    GOP = Party Before Country

    January 31, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  6. mike

    cut me a break they didn't have the nerve to tell bush anything because
    if they did Dick and rumfield would have made sure that there were
    targeted to send the rest of the cowards a message not to cross them
    that is the reason why they never do and they will keep doing it for
    as long as its works just wait when the corporations start paying for
    there campaigns then you will really see a problem

    January 31, 2010 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  7. Nimises

    Mcvey? Yes, he was american. What about the shoe bomber? Worked for the republicans then. Regardless of your political stance, America is founded on the Constitution... And it clearly states "ALL men are created equal". Now, interpret that into justifying torture, endless captivity, wire tapping, falsifying information to lead the country into a war for profit. 8 countries have placed wanted posters for the Bush Admins for WAR CRIMES. This is the result of the Geneva Convention's findings on the detainies.doesn't your Bible tell you to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? How do you pray on Sunday and torture on Monday? Are you still living in the old testaments? An eye for an eye is it? Should we chop off the hands of thieves? The Constitution is exactly what they need to stick with, not a Nazi trial and execution.

    January 31, 2010 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  8. Gil Oberdas

    Mitch, Mitch, Mitch! You and the republicans never said a word about it when it happened under bush and now, just to be more the party of "NO," you complain about it under another administration. Fools rush in!

    January 31, 2010 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    There have been almost 200 prosecutions of terrorists in our country, none of which resulted in attacks on the cities in which they were held.
    McConnell knows this and should be ashamed of himself.

    This is just another example of lying and fear-mongering on the part of the GOP.

    January 31, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Joe Brown

    Mitch makes me sick.

    January 31, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  11. The Republicans and Democrats are on the same team....

    ummmm.... The Founders understood how dangerous government was. The Constitution is not simply written to protect American citizens. It's created to protect all people from corrupt government. The language used in the Constitution is very specific. Everyone discussed in the Constitution is either discussed as a citizen or a person.

    Yes the people supporting kangaroo courts for something that is on the books as a federal offense are also supporting tyrannical government.

    January 31, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  12. C Spurgeon

    Is he for real. Thye supreme court keeps screwing with the military courts and this Congressman acts like his head has been in a pail the last 8 years. He is an idiot and the next time up to bat should be voted out. He cares nothing for this country only his own pocketbooks.

    January 31, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  13. marcus (seattle)

    although i agree with mcconnel that terrorists should not be tried in civilian courts, i find it completely disingenuous that he didn't have the courage to tell bush while bush was in office, about all these mistakes bush was making.. it actually adds to mcconnel's image as a coward.. if you're going to stand up, stand up ALL the time, not just when the other party is running the country.. i'd have MUCH more respect for mcconnel if he had the courage to stand up to bush and say he was making mistakes... then, he'd have some credibility.. now, he just sounds like your typical republican.. railing on the dems for doing the same things republicans do..

    January 31, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  14. Brad

    It seems all people can do in this country anymore is point fingers and call people names. And worst of all are the angry libs who are watching their Obamadream melt before their very eyes. It's your ballgame now folks, it's only your fault if you fail. Republican bashing won't do you any good any longer.

    January 31, 2010 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  15. gr

    I can not believe how the Republicans are such HYPOCRITES! It was good for Bush now that the Dems want to do it is so bad. GOP=HYPOCRITES!

    January 31, 2010 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  16. FactCheck

    Of course since you "only" had control of both houses and the presidency during that time, it's not like you could have done something about it. Party of No.

    January 31, 2010 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  17. Dick_NH

    Mitch.....exactly HOW MANY Military Tribunal convictions have there been since 9 / 11?? THREE !!! And how many convictions of terrorists in Federal Court??? ONE HUNDRED NINETY FIVE !!!

    The Supreme Court has found many "problems" with the tribunal set-up.

    "Nuff said !

    January 31, 2010 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  18. Recently Employed by Federal Stimulus Spending

    If Mitch McConnell really feels that "W" made a mistake by trying terrorists in civilian courts, then WHY does he wait until President Obama wants to do the same thing to voice his opposition.

    If Sen. McConnell was truly sincere about this, he would have spoken out THEN, instead of waiting until now to play politics with this issue.

    January 31, 2010 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    There have been other trials in New York City of terrorists without major disruption. Just look up the details on the successful prosecutions of Yousef Ramzi and the USS Cole bombers. Manhattan wasn't "shut down", there was no circus, people were not inconvenienced, there were no attacks.

    This whole thing is being exaggerated by the GOP and Fox, as part of their on-going efforts to be obstructionist and a general pain in the rear.

    The GOP and their lackeys are simply a pathetic bunch of jerks!

    January 31, 2010 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  20. Death Assurance Companies

    All of a sudden Old turtlehead,Mitch, grew a set of imaginaries.The only mistake was made by your poor momma.

    January 31, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  21. Fla Pat

    I feel that if we bypass the US legal system we in effect tell the world we are not a people of long standing principles. In our fear we change the rules to guarantee the outcome. We are quick to call that tyranny if done in other countrys. What are we afraid of?? That the previous administration's actions will be called into question? If they did nothing wrong they have nothing to be worried about. There have been innocents picked up and imprisoned. Does not everyone deserve a fair hearing, not a stacked deck? If you think that is OK then we can no longer consider ourselves the shining light of freedmon and justice.

    As far as security is concerned do we not think New York is already a target?? Let's get real.

    January 31, 2010 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  22. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    “We now know that was a mistake,” – What proof would like like to site that says trying terrorists is a bad idea or that Bush made a mistake doing this? They were convicted.

    How is following the rule of law a mistake? Who gets to decide when we suspend the bill of rights? Who determines who is a terrorist? Why are you so willing to thrust so much power to government yet try and say you are the party against 'Big Government'. Saying the government has the power to decide when to apply the rule of law is creating big government.

    January 31, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. usualone

    The Republicans have to ask why they are afraid that our citizen courts cannot handle difficult trials as this one would be. Of course, the monies that it would cost to protect people from their own fears is enormous, and that therefore may cause the President and Attorney General to change the trial from civilian to military. All these Republicans seem to do is promote "fear" in all venues.

    January 31, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  24. marc from mississippi

    You liberals keep braying about the Richard Ried fiasco. The shoe bomber incident happened almost simultaneously with 911, This was before the 911 commission and before the government could get a comphrensive grasp on the war on terror. We learned from the shoe bomber that the civilian court is not the best way to go with terrorism. The Senator admits it was a misstake, and so, duh, quit making the same type of misstakes, Odoodoo..

    January 31, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  25. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    Ronald Reagan's Office Policy regarding terrorists ....

    "Another important measure we have developed in our overall strategy is applying the rule of law to terrorists. Terrorists are criminals. They commit criminal actions like murder, kidnapping, and arson, and countries have laws to punish criminals. So a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are - criminals - and to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against them."

    – L. Paul Bremer

    January 31, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
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