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

McConnell: Bush was mistaken to try terrorists in civilian court

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/31/art.mcconnell0131.cnn.jpg caption="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. j

    I disagree completely with McConnell. Terrorist should be tried in civilian court and the prison at Guantanamo should be closed for good. The Conservatives are completely wrong in their view about how terrorist should be handled.

    January 31, 2010 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  2. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    If we are so intent on saving our country and showing the world we are civilized, then we need to have these trials in federal court. There is no reason that we can't and shouldn't have these people tried by our laws that they violated (even though they don't believe in them or think that they are worth while. I think that this (at least to me) shows that we are willing to let a group of people show that the can listen to the facts and make a decision.

    January 31, 2010 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  3. Kathryn

    Bush was "mistaken" in almost everything he did as President.

    January 31, 2010 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  4. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Well, you know what they say, Mitch.

    Any fool can start a war; making peace requires leadership.

    January 31, 2010 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. Clifford in New York

    I'm still waiting for the ACORN trials!

    January 31, 2010 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  6. gary davis harbor oregon

    some one please shut this bobble headed idiot up 🙂
    he makes his own party of purist look and act stupid , like little spoild brats . so again someone please shut the bobble head up, if the republicans wont help the president then we americans need to vote them out of office . and vote in someone that is possative and wants to help the country recover from the second worst resesion under republican control at the time of its conseption . jerks have destroyed the american way of life for years to come . and they won't stand up and tell the truth , they just want to blam it on OBAMA AND OUR CURRENT ADMINISTRATION again shut the bobble head up MITCH THE TWITT McCONNELL and BONNER THE TAN BOY

    January 31, 2010 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  7. S.B.

    If they are accused of crimes against our country, why shouldn't they be tried in our courts? Those military tribunals have not been much of a success so far, and they're not the same as a court of law. Apparently McConnell doesn't have much confidence in our court system. If so, why wasn't he actively trying to improve it when the Republicans were in power? I don't remember any of them voicing any objections when the shoe bomber was successfully tried. Have our courts deteriorated so much since then? If so, maybe it's because of all those incompetent judges Bush appointed for ideological reasons. More likely he's just trying to blow smoke as usual. The sooner we get rid of the embarrassment called Guantanamo the better, and if that means trying these people in our courts, that's fine with me. I really don't worry that any of these guys will escape as he seems to imply. He's just trying to play to the fears of some Americans as usual.

    January 31, 2010 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  8. Charl

    I am appalled by some of the comments here. I mean seriously, why do so many people resort to fear mongering. The republicans logo should be, "the ends justify the means". I see so much preaching of that and it is horrifying. We need to keep Gitmo open and use harsh forms of interrogation to prevent the next 9/11... I wonder if it was shown that having guns increases the chance of there being a 9/11, would the right wing be willing to get rid of their right to own guns if it meant prevention of 9/11?

    January 31, 2010 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  9. Chredon

    While the Constitution only applies to US citizens, the US government has signed on to international treaties regarding the treatment of criminals and prisoner, and where and how to try a crime. Regardless of why this kid tried to blow up the plane, the act itself is a criminal act. When are people going to stop elevating these international criminals to some sort of warrior status. They are not warriors, they are not martyrs, they are not jihadis, they are not special in any way – they are just criminals, plain and simple. And they should be treated like criminals, referred to as criminals, tried, convicted, and executed like criminals.

    January 31, 2010 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  10. Bob

    This is one man's opinion. He's in Congress, not the White House.

    January 31, 2010 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  11. alex badme

    IMagine that Obama is admiting that BUSH was right. See that wasnt so hard just continue to follow the other BUSH iniatives on Terror and we will be safe for 8 more years. The Islamist hate our way of life, hate our freedom, hate women's right to speak out. Don't be a naive fool and worship the barbaric slaughter of those who want freedom.

    January 31, 2010 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  12. Rachell

    I know that government officials always labels these people as "The Terrorists" but really, where is the evidence? It's kind of why a trial is necessary in my opinion. As far as I am concerned, these are individuals whom the government has labeled as terrorists, but if they are so bad, why are they not being charged with crimes? If there is evidence against any of these people, then by all means, present it in a court of law and let these men face their charges. There is just something very icky and unamerican about detaining individuals and denying them due process. Sometimes I wonder if this isn't so much about protecting America as it is about saving face and not owning up to the inprisonment of innocents.

    January 31, 2010 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  13. DrPete

    To say that our legal system isn't capable of trying and putting away these people is saying to America and the world that we need a separate, non-constitutional system for the "real" criminals because our current system can't be relied on to convict them.

    I'm sure, though, that if President Obama wanted to keep detainees at Gitmo the GOP would be opposed to it, just because.

    January 31, 2010 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  14. Steven G

    Of course Bush was wrong and so is Obama/Holder. The US Constitution was not created for, and is not applicable to non-citizens who kill or attempt to kill US people overseas. A prison guard who escorted a terrorist to the courtroom from the holding cell in NYC was shanked through the eye and suffered permanent brain damage. The guard is in an assisted living center. He has a wife and children. Our system of government was never created to provide the same rights to terrorists that we provide our citizens.

    January 31, 2010 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  15. you're all buttmonkeys

    Americans are sooooo stupid. Get rid of the liberals and it will all iron itself out as it always does and we will be back into prosperity. Tax us into oblivion starting with Clin-ton and then run the gov't thru the media. What a way to go you morons.

    January 31, 2010 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  16. Ken in NC

    Now let me get this straight. When President Bush did it, Republicans said it was the right thing to do. OK, so now a Democratic President wants to do the same thing and all Republicans say it is the wrong thing to do and that President Bush made a mistake when he did it.

    I love these Republicans. They are probably the only "Dead Fish" (PALIN) I have ever seen that can go against the flow of their own statements. They will say anything to make a point be it true or false.

    January 31, 2010 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  17. Capsaicin

    McConnell just doesn't want the news media covering the public trials discussing what the US did to the rest of the world under George W. Bush–Oh Golly Gee!, that might make people remember the last 8 years of Hell-o this nation went through, and throw a monkey wrench into the GOPs plan to blame every problem in existence upon Mr. Obama for which, unfortunately, unreflective Americans seem to be falling for lately, hook line and sinker.

    January 31, 2010 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  18. JP

    Oh, Now your going to speak up. The Republican leadership is a bunch of Chicken Hawks. They are always angling to protect the interests of the have and have more.

    January 31, 2010 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  19. joel weymouth

    No rag – anyone who thinks that trying terrorists like they were common criminals is a fool and an idiot. This is what Al Qaeda wants – bog our system down and give a forum for their "animals" to "warble" their garbage. They are irregulars – insurgents out of uniform against the rules of the Geneva Accords and the Hague Convention – they actually can be executed without trial upon capture. As a matter of fact, after WW2, there was a German insurgency, and their members when captured were immediately executed. And they were tried by military tribunals. But these facts are not being published along the latitude given by the company of nations in handling "rebels", "terrorists", and "insurgents".

    January 31, 2010 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  20. boo hoo liberals

    George W. Bush was a great a president. Hopefully this four year experiment in Obama will soon be over with one term. You liberals think you have all the solutions, when in fact, you have no solutions. Your solutions will lead to the nations undoing.

    January 31, 2010 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  21. Wade

    Am I confused or is there precedent for trying the 9/11 terrorists in New York? The mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, was tried and convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Why is this any different?

    January 31, 2010 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  22. Richard Komi

    I am surprised that Mitch knew it was a mistake to try these terrorists in civilian court at the time the Bush administration did but did not say anything and now Sen. Mitch McConnell comes out to say it was a mistake. This is a clear case of hypocricy on the part of the senator and other Republicans who were hailing Bush at the time and now chastising Obama. While I am a supporter of hash sentences for any body who seeks to harm us, I want to say that the issue of our collective safety is something we should all agree on. Chastising Obama for the same thing Bush did while in office is playing politics with the American people on the part of Republicans.

    January 31, 2010 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  23. Nathaniel

    The only reason why Obama mentions it is because the Republicans stood silent when it was a Republican policy and complain when the same policy is maintained under a Democratic President.

    Hypocrites Hypocrites Hypocrites Hypocrites Hypocrites

    When will the Republican Party demonstrate true patriotism by working to build our country rather than use their only ounce of power to destroy their opposition and embolden their own power? That isn't patriotism... that's cowardice! It takes real leadership to work with those whom you disagree and to step aside when you have no fresh ideas. The GOP mascot should be changed from the elephant to the cowardly lion. They betray our country when they act as they do!

    January 31, 2010 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
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