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. JD in Moraga

    ...and what did this incompetent do while the events in question were actually occurring? Did he protest at that time? If not, what credibility does the cretin have?

    January 31, 2010 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  2. vdavis

    why must they be detained@ gitmo? the GOP claims they are not members of a foreign military and thus not subjected to the Geneva Convention, but then want them tried in military courts or commissions? was McConnell against President Bush when he proposed that the terrorists be tried in civilian courts?

    January 31, 2010 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  3. JB

    Bush Was Mistaken. That seems the perfect three word answer to anything that happened from 2000 to 2008 and the perfect answer for changing any of those policies were still in place. How that silver spoon, mouth breathing moron was allowed to drive this country in the ground for 8 years boggles me to this day.

    January 31, 2010 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  4. Nea

    These people are human being just like we are the difference is they terrorize so why do we act like we are so afraid of them and we show them that we are this is something that Osama Bin Laden likes when he see that we are shaking in our boots because of terroists, What difference does it makes as long as they are locked up somewhere and stay there.

    January 31, 2010 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  5. Hal

    Once again Democracy is too scary for the GOP. Human Rights are too radical.

    The GOP represents nothing save cowardice. Land of the Semi-Free and the Home of the Afraid.

    Only a Republican would be afraid of the truth coming out in open court!!
    Only a Republican would be afraid of a cave dwelling, fundamentalist in chains.

    The GOP is the party of Scared OLD Men

    January 31, 2010 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  6. Christopher

    We should stop letting our fear run roughshod over our principles. I, for one, am not willing to let politicians use the Constitution as toilet paper in order to feel safe. Nobody can guarantee my safety all the time. Nor would I want them to suggest that if I just let them do whatever they want nothing bad will ever happen to me.
    This country was founded on "Give Me Liberty Or give Me Death!"
    Now it is "Do Whatever You Want to Do To Me, Just Keep Me Safe, Sniff."
    I refuse to live in fear because sleezebag politicians know that Fear=Power.
    If the choice is to surrender the principles this country was founded on in order to feel safe then I would rather just put a bullet in my head right now.

    January 31, 2010 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  7. DG

    The Obama-led FBI interrogated the Christmas Day Eunuch Bomber for FIFTY MINUTES at which point it became more important to MIRANDIZE him than to do everything possible to extract every bit of actionable intelligence from him, At which point, of course, he shut his mouth and asked for a lawyer. Even the left-wing Washington Post has editorialized against this ridiculous application of criminal law to an enemy combatant.

    If you think that ensuring the proper application of constitutional rights to an enemy combatant is more important than using him to prevent other attacks, well – being irredeemably stupid is also a constitutional right, isn't it?

    January 31, 2010 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  8. T'SAH from Virginia

    SO, what happened to the USA as a result of this so-called mistake??? Would you have mentioned this NOW if the situation was DIFFERENT?? NO!

    January 31, 2010 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  9. midga

    wow.. I am surprised the Grand Obstructionist Party (GOP) said Prez Bush did something wrong.

    January 31, 2010 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  10. Economist

    Please, sir, we aren't all so stupid. Some of us Americans know that when we deny anyone their rights, it is that much easier that our own rights will be violated. But, you wouldn't know anything about common decency, would you, sir. No, you only know fear, but we know better.

    January 31, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  11. Bill

    So now the Republican strategy is to say that every GOP suggestion Obama has adopted was a bad suggestion. Geez, when will the party of NO actually do something positive for the country!?!

    January 31, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  12. TM

    Sorry, no second bite at the apple allowed. When Bush decided to try the show bomber in civilian court YOU said it was the right thing to do, and you PRAISED the Justice system when he was CONVICTED. We have this little thing now called video recording. We have YOU ON RECORD. You DON'T get to REWRITE history just because you can't stand the fact that your party isn't occupying the White House.

    January 31, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  13. Jen

    Haven't you heard? They now claim Bush was really more of a Democrat. Vote everyone but Alan Grayson out of office and start over. Preferably with people who believe in evolution.

    January 31, 2010 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  14. Brian in California

    Doesn't McConnell look like one of three bad guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark just before their faces are melted off? His face looks like it's in that state of perpetual pre-melt off.

    January 31, 2010 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  15. u2canfail

    I really think our judicial system is the "hallmark of democracy". So Mitch thought is might have been then, but is not now? Surely not? (It's probably all those Hitler signs, his group carries around. A country ruled by military tribunal, in GITMO. )

    January 31, 2010 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  16. Joe Sweeney

    It should be a show trial. It should show how the Ameican justice system works and does convict terorists in open trals based on evidence. It will not be a show trial for al Qaeda. Judges can and do silence those in the court room (including the accused) who stray from the facts in order to politicize a trial. A public trial will convict these murderers and show the world how democracy works.

    January 31, 2010 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. sarju

    Where you a senator then? Oh forgot that was then and now is now you hypocrites.

    January 31, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. Mike in Texas

    If it was a mistake back then why are you only saying so now? Hmmmm....

    January 31, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  19. Justin

    How is the GOP's fear of trying terrorists on US soil not cutting and running? What happened to to "bring it on?"

    January 31, 2010 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. Fou

    Bush mistake, Obama also trying fellow Bush what Bush did?
    that is no change we don't want 12 years Bush.

    January 31, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  21. jim

    mitch mcconnell is a coward who is again stoking fear. Why should we be afraid to try these people in our courts??? This fear sends a much stronger message of weakness than conducting closed hidden tribunals like cowards sneaking out the back door..get some backbone mconnell and give them a taste of real American justice out on the open so the whole world can see what happens when you attack us and kill our citizens!

    January 31, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  22. terry

    This would sound a whole lot better coming from someone with some credibility.

    January 31, 2010 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  23. Minnesotan

    The Republicans remind me of Monty Python's "Knights who say Nee," except all they can say is "No" to anything that works towards fixing the problems that they caused.

    January 31, 2010 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  24. Noah R. Reagan

    Thank you John King for calling out Senator McConnell on flip flopping on so many issues to mention here. The best part of the show today was when John King replayed a tape of McConnell's interview in February 09 saying he was willing to support key leglistation put forward by his own party and now changes his mind.

    Very nice John King

    Noah R. Reagan

    January 31, 2010 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  25. JM Potratz

    And the GOP stupidity just keeps on rolling. Don't they ever understand that this is a country of laws backed up by the Constitution?

    January 31, 2010 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
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