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. Ms. Ann Thrope

    cheneywatch nailed it. I got nothin' else.

    January 31, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Jenn, Philadelphia

    There have been civilian trials for other terrorists and it has worked out fine, but none of this man's ranking. He will be a focal point for other attacks and that shouldn't surprise anyone. The security necessary for this trial will immobilize Manhattan for years and cost millions. Why do this when we have the facilities at Guantanimo available already?

    January 31, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    “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

    There is NOTHING in the constitution toprevent you from continuing to interrogate them. Just give them immunity from whatever else they reveal. If they get the death penalty for one murder and implicate themselves and others for more, will they get any more dead at their execution?

    January 31, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Pragmatic

    Too little – too late from the spineless spawn that dress themselves up as republicans and reasonable men .... they say in silent worship of Saint George of Bush and his faithful Dicky ... now they get the "courage" to speak! No one is listening!

    All politics- all the time – with the republican record that speaks for itself!

    January 31, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Clint, Wa.

    Google , United States vs. Reid. Read sentencing of shoe bomber & make up your own mind.

    January 31, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. B

    Someone tell this – – person that Civilian courts have a much better record of convicting these people than military commissions ever did and he should know it !

    I don’t understand how this idiot keeps his job..
    It is all about politics and nothing else.

    January 31, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. Charlie in Maine

    Wow Mitch admitting thaat the all powerfulf supreme leader Bush made a mistake. That is change I can believe in...but alas as is typical for this dude, he is wrong about the issue. Bush's mistake was allowing torture. This is Amercia and if we are hoping the rest of the world will respect us we have to be able to respect ourselves. Let's see where the intelligence gained without torture gets us before declaring mistakes. Don't worry Mitch Bush was wrong about a lot of things so in way you are right.

    January 31, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Nathan

    Why didn't he say so then. He was more loyal to his party then to the American people. Why can't everybody see these Republicans for what they are?

    January 31, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  9. Disgruntled Progressive

    Bush should be tried for his own war crimes.

    Too bad the Dems are completely spineless.

    January 31, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. historian

    Is he for real?

    January 31, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  11. 8 Years of King George II and now the Landed Gentry Scream “Let Them Eat Cake” to the Unemployed and Uninsured Serfs!

    But now it is called "precedent" moron. You should have spoken against it when King George set it up.

    So, now once in civil court, they can all be tried in civil because the shrub set the "precedent"

    You know, those things Roberts said he would NOT overturn as Supreme Court justice but just did by letting foreign companies buy political seats!

    January 31, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. w samuels

    send McConnell to Guantanamo-

    January 31, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  13. Dale

    So how about an unnecessary war in Iraq that cost a cool trillion dollars, a quarter million lives, and distracted attention and took resources from the war in Afghanistan so that Bin Laden got away? Was that a mistake too? (Rhetorical question.)

    January 31, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Mark

    The worst part of all this is how long we are taking to decide what to do with the accused terrorists. I don't care, try them in Military Tribunals or try them in US courts. Either way, get it over with already... we've held some of them for seven years without trial. Legally they may not have the right to a speedy trial, but seven years is ridiculous by any measure.

    January 31, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  15. Dean

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    The basic concepts of liberty and equality, as laid out in our Constitution, apply to *all* people – not just citizens. To claim that the laws of our land only apply to citizens, but we can do whatever we want without due process to anyone else is absolutely ludicrous. Just shows how low humans can go when they let their emotions control their thinking.

    January 31, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. William

    Hypocrisy at it's finest; this kind of talk only elevates the sad state of the Republican Party, further indicating their obstructionist policies. The time to speak up is when the bad behavior is occurring, not years later! This is further proof that the thinking of Republican’s is driven by the party line, without independence to think for themselves. And, they call Obama an ideologue!

    January 31, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. John, Austin TX

    Better late than never to point out a mistake. At least this is a step in the right direction for civil discourse – if a Republican can blame the former administration as part of the reasoning, that's almost noble compared to the usual posturing.
    During the era of piracy, civilized countries created special laws that allowed them to treat the pirates in a different way. It is time we do the same for terrorists. We need to categorize the terrorists as a class similar to pirates and apply process that can still meet international standards. Our value is in believing in the law, but we are stuck somewhere between our courts that don't seem right, and military courts that seems to bestow a war prisoner distinction on them. Pirates were not noble warriors, terrorists are not noble warriors, time to lump them together for swift and appropriate justice.

    January 31, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  18. Bill of Florida

    The reasoning that people who are not citizens don't enjoy the rights of the Constitution strikes me as dismissive of its most basic tenets. While the Constitution was written as a foundational document for our country, it seems fitting to offer the same principles to others. Why? Because we want the world to be a better place, and offering these rights to others will make it a better place. If we want the world to be more like us, we should offer the same protections to the citizens of the world that we give to ourselves. If you truly believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty in this country, that principle should apply all over the world. Never in my life have I seen so many people willing to throw away the Constitution's basic human rights, and it's disturbing. Frankly, I believe we have a strong case against many of these guys at Guantanamo, but if some ARE innocent, they should go free. It seems like some of our leaders are afraid that we've been holding some of these men without a viable case against them.

    January 31, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. Pete

    Why isn't our justice system good enough? If we need the military to take over our justice system then how far are we from having the military take over the rest of our government? Someone like McConnell doesn't deserve to be in our government.

    January 31, 2010 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  20. Tssshhh

    Yea, McConnell is shifty all right.
    But that Barack Obama, he's a straight shooter; a real 'tell it like it is' kinda' guy. LOL.
    They all suck, especially current commander and chief.

    January 31, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  21. Our Super Max Prisons Can Handle The Terrorists . . .

    Why can't McConnell let our democracy show them our system is better.

    January 31, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  22. johnrj08

    And, of course, Mitch McConnell is the Constitutional authority on this and should set the standard for all future litigation. He is turning this into another political issue, even though he knows full well that the Supreme Court would probably toss out any convictions in a military tribunal because the evidentiary requirements are much less stringent than in Federal courts.

    January 31, 2010 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  23. johnrj08

    PAY ATTENTION!!!!!!!!

    If terrorists who had been held at Gitmo were tried in military tribunals, there is a great likelihood that their convictions would be tossed out by the Supreme Court because the standards for evidence not nearly as tough as they are for Federal Courts.

    If you want these terrorists convicted, DO NOT try them in a military tribunal. A Federal Court is the ONLY PLACE that can provide convictions that will NOT be tossed out.

    The Republicans are trying to make another political issue out of this, even though they know full well that Federal Court is the right place to try to someone like KSM.

    Mitch McConnell is an Ideological idiot.

    January 31, 2010 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  24. JerseyGuy

    Unfortunately, it seems that a legacy of "fear" has been embedded in the US psyche since the previous administration before Obama. Remember, if we don't take action against Iraq we could see a "mushroom" cloud over a major city? Or the quote, they hate us because we love freedom?

    The most stupid comparisons I've ever heard. Because we love freedom? Well who loves slavery? I mean that's like saying you're a true american that loves air. Well who doesn't like AIR!

    So now, what's good for the republicans when they were in charge is no longer good for the democrats now that they are in charge. And I see that the GOP refuses to ever mention that there were plenty of other terrorists tried in NY successfully. Such hypocrits! The terrorists have succeded in having us divided amongst each other, forsaking our own prinicpals and laws, all in the name of fear!

    January 31, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  25. Columbus, Ohio.

    It really doesn't matter what or who made a mistake.

    The people we are talking about are humans, and should be treated accordingly.

    A person has enemies only if one believes so.

    January 31, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
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