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. nick

    Someone should tell this dude...First!!!

    January 31, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. JonDie

    I can't believe it! A Republican actually claims that a Republican leader made a mistake! I'm going to write this down for posterity (although I disagree, we should try criminal in federal court, not in some Soviet-style kangaroo court).

    January 31, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    And when Bush was trying those terrorists in civilian court, you said what exactly Mitch? Oh that's right, absolutely nothing.

    January 31, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. Jeanne H

    hahaha!!! that's a good one! I think the republican M.O. is: we were entitled to do anything we wanted to do, even if they were mistakes, but YOU, OBAMA, are not entitled to make any moves if WE think they're mistakes. What a bunch of hypocrits, they are a disgrace to this great nation.

    January 31, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. Former Republican

    Apparently McConnell is mistaken about what our Constitution says and that the Supreme Court has already declared military tribunals illegal in the 1860s. The republican "loophole" around the Constitution is to try and declare everywhere a "battlefield."

    Why are you afraid of our Judicial system McConnell? Grow a spine, re-read the Constitution and rethink your backward positions on how our system of American justice works.

    January 31, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. bobby

    i wouldnt trust this guy as far as i can throw. He is a shifty politician,,thats all he is

    January 31, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  7. RAG

    Is Mitch McConnell an idiot, or does he just think we are?

    There is nothing that America can do that would undercut al Quida more than to dispense American justice under our constitutional law to these criminals in legal court. The majesty of America will show through their horrible crimes and show the world that we are a noble, brave and honorable people,

    McConnell is obviously none of these things and would continue to give aid and comfort to al Quida by making us act like them.

    January 31, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Sevastian Winters

    So was the oddly comical looking Senator saying that SOME people are not and should not be entitled to a fair trial and due process under the law, but rather accorded a mockery of a trial designed to put them down secretly under the auspices that the men we choose to conduct such secret venues are all of such impeccable moral fiber that they wouldn't possibly act on any other basis that judicial fairness? Or was the Gorilla faced legislator implying that the United States Judicial system is a joke and is therefore less capable of protecting the American people from foreigners than his secret panel would be? Either way, I'm not overly convinced that I like his pompous, Amero-centrist ideas in a land that supposes on paper that ALL men are created equal.... (though to be fair, President Obama, would not have, been considered at the time those words were first penned, a man... or at least an equal.)

    Look, this guy is a pompous blowhard. If our judicial system is not good enough to convict a man of terrorism, then maybe.... just possibly, we got the wrong guy. Man wouldn't THAT be embarrassing if it ever hit the public airwaves????

    January 31, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Matt

    We tried, convicted, and imprisoned Timothy McVeigh in the United States. We tried him as a criminal. What difference does it make that the person is a foreigner or not? It is these kinds of debates and fears that terrorists want to instill in our every day lives so that we change the way we live. That is their objective. In addition, they also want us to embarass ourselves in front of the world and Guantanamo Bay is a perfect place to accomplish that goal.

    January 31, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. Minnesota gal

    When is he going to say bush make a mistake by attacking an innocent country. He made a mistake by torturing people. Now those were real mistakes.

    January 31, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Bob44

    Wow! Thank you, Mitch McConnell, for admitting this. Especially since George W. Bungle NEVER EVER admited to a mistake??????

    January 31, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Wake up before we have another 9/11

    The pure stupidity from these other commenters is appalling. The Constitution doesn't apply to non-citizens! Why can't you get that through your heads! Trying these terrorists in civilian courts is just as bad as closing Gitmo - and will prove to be a huge mistake in the end. Of course, once we have another 9/11, I'm sure Barack Hussein Obama (mmm...mmm...mmm...) will just blame it on Bush. Talk about spineless.

    January 31, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Alan, Phoenix

    were u sleeping then?
    stop the hypocrisy..............

    January 31, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. R in Maine

    Smirking, effeminate little twit. You are a coward, afraid of American justice.

    January 31, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Arine Ward

    @Wake Up Before We Have Another 911

    Please you sound so foolish...911 was orchestrated and enhanced for the advancement of money...the Republicans wanted and needed a war and allowed it to happen....
    Mitch McConnell hasn't done one thing for Kentucky because people of color are located their...and he has the nerve to sit in Congress....We will be voting him out!!! Kentucky For Rob Wilkey!!!

    January 31, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  16. gate

    The people being released from Gitmo don't have enough evidence against them to be tried in any court, military or civilian. The American system of justice is not founded on the beliefs that we can detain someone indefinitely without evidence or a trial. in fact, those are the ideas that we have always fought against as a country (Hitler, Stalin, Colonial Britain). McConnell is ignorant of history and is simply politicizing the issue to hurt Obama. The GOP has no interest in solving the problems of this country. They are obstructionists and willing to re-write history for their own gain.

    January 31, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. Brad

    Do they have a constitutional right to a civilian trial? No. But they were captured in the "War on terror" so that should make them POW's and that does give them some rights under the Geneva convention. Honestly, what it looks like is we just don't know what we're doing in these conflicts so everyone in Washington is splitting hairs to justify how we treat these people.

    January 31, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    @Matt, of course we tried Timothy McVeigh as a criminal. He was an American citizen who carried out the attack in America. The 9/11 attackers were illegal foreign combatants under the terms of the Geneva Convention. Foreign combatants HAVE NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS! THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE! What part of this is hard to understand?

    @Former Republican, Military tribunals were used in WWII to try non-uniformed German saboteurs. It was Constitutionally legal.
    I wish you bleeding heart liberals would actually read the Constitution and Geneva Convention before making up bogus interpretations based on what you heard in Huffington Post.

    January 31, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    So why didn't he mention this while Bush was president?

    January 31, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. Davivd Dee

    ...and this from the people who brought you the Iraq war!!! Part of the problem with the past Reugnintcan actions is that they rounded up anybody that looked like a "Terrorist". Most of these people are innocent. Why was this done? Because then they could say that they were doing something about terrorism, 'see all the terrorist we caught'

    January 31, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  21. Kurt

    What do you expect, the Republicans didn't have the courage to stand up and confront their Gods (Bush and Cheney) while they were in office, but as they have shown America to be, the cowards do so only to make it a talking point against the current president. Is it any wonder they are the party of can't, the party of won't the part of no! Get rid of those tired old predujical dinosaurs and start getting some new blood in that wants to build a future for America.

    Old Tired Republicans, the greatest threat to America's greatness.

    January 31, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. cheneywatch

    "The Constitution doesn't apply to non-citizens! "
    No, but it still applies to us. You guys really don't understand justice when you so quickly want to grease the wheels without processing evidence. You think the justice system is a revenge system. Your every comment reflects a complete ignorance for why we have defense attorney systems to defend the indefensible. It isn't to give THEM the same rights, it is so equal measure is applied to the facts of a case. Only to the radical nuts in this country is the defense attorney someone who is simply standing up for the client. A real defense attorney, by trade, wants to maintain faith in our judicial process itself regardless of the scum that may pass their desk. You guys are a shame to all that we've been through.

    What is ironic is that the most ardent voices for quick executions sound just like their Taliban counterparts, all accusation, no facts, no trial, just kill.

    January 31, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  23. MrHapiGuy

    It's fear-mongery. You want to stop terrorism? Stop being afraid.

    January 31, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Let's assume that it WAS a "mistake" for President Bush. Why didn't you speak up then? Were you too stupid to know it or was the Party Line that "W" never made a mistake?

    SEVERAL presidents have tried terrorists in our Civil judicial system and gotten more than satisfactory results.
    The Party of NO can't stand the idea that this President might get CREDIT for doing anything right and have shown themselves to be willing to besmirch their own leader's "perfect record" in order to try and make THIS President "wrong."

    January 31, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  25. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    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.

    AGAIN, the Party of NO intends to block this president at every turn.
    President Obama was elected on campaign promises. Every time he tries to keep one, you guys try to block him. Every time you have any success you point out that he's not keeping his campaign promises...

    You must be so proud.

    January 31, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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