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. Jim in Idaho

    Ah, so we go from Republicans claiming that their administration didn't make any major mistakes to yeah, the GOP is now throwing Bush under the bus on these security matters. (Sigh) I suppose this is McConnell's idea of "progress" and "partisanship."

    January 31, 2010 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  2. Finch

    Didn't we try the "Shoe Bomber" in a civilian court?

    Didn't we try the 20th hijacker in a civilian court?

    Didn't we try the Miami conspiritors in civilian court?

    It seems to me the precedent has already been set.

    Oh, and by the way, when the prision on Guantanamo was opened, Bush specifically said the Genena Conventions would not apply to this folks...to be held in whatever conditions for an eternity. Is it any wonder the rest of the world thinks we are dishonest and hold ourselves to lower standards?

    January 31, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. Runofthemill

    mitch looks like a turtle.

    Since mcconnell has never been right about anything in his life why would anyone care what he has to say about this? Isnm't he tha bashterd who is condemning Americans to death by blocking health insurance reform? Isn't he the tiny minded terd who has given exaclty the same speech about the insurance reform bill no matter what has been in it for 8 months running? Isn't he the same tiny derked troll who was a cheerleader fro invading Iraq?

    So exactly why is anyone bothering to talk to him except to ask him why he thinks bankrupting Americans while standing in the way of insurance and banking reforn is a good thing for a US senator to do?

    January 31, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  4. Runofthemill

    If you act like terrorists are state actors you empower them, not us. If you treat them like they are equal with the United States you denigrate our nation. If you put them on trial as petty criminals and murderers you treat them as what they are.

    As far as protecting human frights? It was the UNITED STATES who introduced human rights protection as part of the itnernational order, at least the contemporary understanding of it. It is WHAT MAKES US WHAT WE ARE. So one has to assume that mcconnel and the rpeublicons who want to act like COmmunist China secretly hate America and our laws and values.

    January 31, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  5. Ellid

    What a fat, unctuous, self-satisfied fool Senator McConnell is.

    January 31, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  6. Barbara

    The leading Republican in the Senate leading the charge of NO!! Loser!

    January 31, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. Democrats are weak and stupid

    Democrats are weak on National Security - period. Bush was an idiot and we were glad to get rid of him. Unfortunately, it resulted in the terrible mistake of electing this immature teenager Obama.

    Democrats lie and cheat and will do anything for power.

    We've had two terrorist attacks under Obama (even though his shills in the press try to cover for him).

    We can only hope the Republicans take over before the third plan is put into action.

    January 31, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  8. tim

    Isnt it funny that during the question and answer session a few days ago.... when the republicans were making fools of themselves when Obama was countering all of their crappy arguments,. FOX news decided to pull the plug and stop airing it while CNN and MSNBC kept going!

    January 31, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. Sid B

    It's all about fear-mongering. Republicans truely believe that American people have very low IQ that's why they keep trying to deceive us with there stupidity. The evidence against this guy is unsurmountable in any modern court of low, be it civilian or military court. Bush tried a whole bunch of these same folks in the civilian court and got them all found guilty. The world hasn't burst into pieces !! And by the way, where were the comical Mitch McConnicks and Susan Collins?? These folks are hypocrites and will never give credit to President Obama who has this nation's best interest in heart. The idiotic thing we could do to shoot ourselves in the foot as a nation is to bring this bunch of idiots back in power. WE SHALL ALL LIVE TO RUE IT AGAIN !!!

    January 31, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  10. Zion

    This was one of the few things Bush did right. Sorry.

    January 31, 2010 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  11. Michael from Ventura

    Mitch McConnell has no idea what a good idea would be. All he can do is say NO and smirk. This so-called leader of the gop is a prime example of what's wrong with Washington. They have no ideas nor solutions. That's why they were defeated so soundly last November!

    January 31, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. Tony in Maine

    Chinless Mitch wants to rip up the Constitution to show how tough he is. Number one, Mitch, you aren't the President – never will be. Number 2, I'm reminded of the guy sitting at the end of the bar drinking a long neck Bud and roaring about how he'd do this and he'd do that. That idiot is full of crap too.

    January 31, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  13. Knucklehead

    I really don't see why these guys are afraid of an open trial. Give the guy his day in court, let him testify or shake his fist or whatever he is going to do. It's really the best way to deal with these criminals. Let the evidence be shown and let justice be done. No need to hide it all on some island somewhere. That's not American. That's cowardice.

    January 31, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  14. Al

    Apparently Mitch has a short memory, the PREVIOUS administration is the same adminitration that Mitch was a part of then as he is now. I dont remember him advising Bush as to where those people should be tried. Why dont you change administrations like Joe Lieberman occasionally does? Quit you're belly-aching,RETIRE.

    January 31, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. Perusing-through

    Clear example of what President Obama meant when he said their is a "deficit of trust" in Washington, D.C.

    Mitch McConnell is a big example of the hipocrisy coming from Republican Senators.

    January 31, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  16. Pounder

    I don't like this , but he is from Kentucky...need I say more!!!

    January 31, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. GOPBslapper

    Just another GOPer putting his Party ahead of our Country. Republicans are a bigger threat to the USA than Terrorists.

    January 31, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. JonDie

    Former Republican said: "The republican 'loophole' around the Constitution is to try and declare everywhere a 'battlefield.' "

    Which is why Bush and Cheney made the decision to put the United States in a permanent state of undeclared war. That way there are literally no rules. Instead we are more and more like the former Soviet Union.

    And to "Wake up before we have another 9/11",

    9/11 happened on Bush's watch, and from 2002 to 2008, your hero Bush (who was a war-time deserter during the Vietnam war) deserted our troops in Afghanistan with no strategy and no leadership...so that now the Taliban and Al Qaeda have re-built.

    January 31, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  19. Tony in Maine

    Some one said:

    "The Constitution doesn't apply to non-citizens! "

    Wrong. The Constitution applies to all subject to US law – citizen or non citizen. What you're trying to say is that the terrorists are POW's, did not break US law and should not be tried in US courts at all.

    I don't agree – but I'm betting neither of us is a lawyer with expertise in that sort of law – so let'sa just say.

    You're wrong. Again. Still Always.

    January 31, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  20. djfaber199

    bush was NEVER a conservative.'Bush was a east coat liberal Repub born on the Yales campus.

    Bush was out of control on spending, refused to close the borders and had a war in Iraq for some reasons known only to him.

    the media assisted his fantasy by calling this most liberal man a conservative.
    but in what area? even his judges were all washington insiders.

    January 31, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. Bruce

    I think Sen. McConnell - and most Republicans for that matter - would be more comfortable in North Korea or the old Soviet Union than in a liberal democracy like the United States. McConnell may want to introduce a bill to form a Gestapo; it would be consistent with the Republican view of due process.

    January 31, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  22. ProudLib

    All hail the latest recipient of the Michael Steele Self-Flagellation Award! Mitch, don't you know that honest introspection is not a welcomed Republican trait, even when it's used to make a cheap rhetorical point today? Why, that's tantamount to saying those in power don't need to bother with compromise, you know ... like the '94 to '06 Republicans.

    January 31, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  23. chris

    You admit that Bush made a mistake. Did you also make a mistake not saying something when it would destroy the country?? Did it actually destroy the country??

    The only difference I see between now and then is the party in power. In 2002 The Republicans were even in the majority in congress and could have done something about it if if truly meant so much to our security.

    This is pure politics with national security, and shouldn't be happening.

    January 31, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  24. Kevin

    Mitch looks like a creepy puppet.

    January 31, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  25. al-dud

    I am sure the Senator from Kentucky means well (in his eyes.) However, I feel he is shaky ground, considering his silence during the last administration. What took him so long to find religion?

    I believe in the U.S. Constitution and I believe that the U.S. judicial system is up for this challenge. I believe that is what has always set us apart from other nations and forms of government.

    I pray that neither is compromised for the expediency that would satisfy some of my (fear and hate driven) fellow citizens; especially as it would not make them no safer.

    January 31, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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