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. Sean

    McConnell sucks and looks like a deformed bird.

    January 31, 2010 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  2. Albert R., L.A., CA

    Now tell us how you feel about the economic mess he and you Republicans left us in, the torture at Gitmo, global warming and the continued oil dependency which is a given for any Republican politician from an oil state.

    January 31, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    To aver now that Bush was wrong after more than 8 years and with a new administration in power, makes one look on his statements with suspicion and doubt. Why has he suddenly become so passionate and outspoken when his party is no longer calling the shots? It smacks of hypocrisy to me.

    January 31, 2010 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  4. miri chorev

    If the `Bush admin. was wrong, why did the honorable senator keep silent? Is he only having guts criticizing a democrat? In their zeal to oppose anything Obama does, they forget what they supported couple of years ago.

    January 31, 2010 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  5. Roadrage

    I love the irony.. we storm into countries like Iraq hoping to "Spread" democracy (or force it really), but then as soon as we catch terrorist from those same countries, we immidiately want to take away all democratic allowances in fear of the bad guys maybe not getting convicted.

    That's excatly what we're trying to get those countries to turn away from, no?

    January 31, 2010 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  6. kd

    There have been a ton of attacks on the US by terrorists, by US citizens and foreigners, and ALL of them have been tried in civilian courts. What's different now? Oh, yeah – Republicans have to whine and beat their hypocritical chests to try and SOUND like warriors when they're, right now, the biggest problem we've got.

    January 31, 2010 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  7. Sam

    UK has Bliar on trial for his lies & unconditional support of Iraq war.

    When will US do that to Bush? He led US into killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and our son & daughters.

    January 31, 2010 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  8. Albert R., L.A., CA

    Fear and flag, thats all the Republican leaders ever preach during an election year becaused it reaches those who vote with their emotions and not their families needs in mind, but once in power they work only for corporations.

    January 31, 2010 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  9. Jay

    Bush was wrong about many things Mitch. Where were those words that Bush was wrong then? So you can use it as a talking point against Obama is the reason he mentions it now?

    You and the rest of your party are losers. It's so sad that your party will ultimately cause this country to collapse through pure politics. We almost collapsed due to Bush. You may get your chance to finish the sad end after you tragically retake the Congress and with the help of the free press at Fixed News maybe even the White House. Sad, sad, sad.

    January 31, 2010 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  10. Bertina

    Mr. McConnell needs to retire. Get rid of these career politicians.

    January 31, 2010 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  11. Charlie

    Of course it was not a problem for Mc Connell or any of the other republicans when Bush did it. Now that Obama is doing the same thing the Republicans make it look like treason. The whole Republican party is nothing but a gang of lying thugs that only care about power.

    January 31, 2010 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  12. asking yourself first.

    Be a human being is always by asking yourself first ( WHAT I HAVE DONE )

    January 31, 2010 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  13. Chris C

    They shouldn't be tried in either military or civilian court. Our military should have gathered information any way possible then eliminated these people. If they were on the battlefield they would be dead already.

    January 31, 2010 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  14. Hank from Seattle

    Those that most loudly proclaim their pride in our justice system and the rule of law are usually the first to throw it overboard when the chips are down. Do you believe in freedom and the rule of law – with all the consequent risks – or not? You can't have it both ways. History is clear – when we abandon our principles, we regret it later.

    January 31, 2010 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  15. LG

    Here's how Al Qaida wins...

    Every once in a while, they send someone with a half-baked explosive gizmo (e.g. exploding underwear) that probably doesn't work. We panic, spend millions to defend and abandon our principles.

    It's time to show them that we trust our legal system and will treat them fairly but severely. We honor the law, not some king - so why do we run away from it on the first outside scare.

    Yes, we need to defend ourselves against them but it should not be at the cost of abandoning the Constitution. The Constitution defends all people - not all citizens.

    January 31, 2010 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  16. Steven

    What was the mistake? rying terrorist in civilian courts doesn't poll well? Was there a consequence of this so called, "mistake"? The polls from MA showed the single biggest issue that brought people to Brown was his criticism of civilian trials. So while the location of the trial of KSM won't effect the economy one way or the other, the Repubs are going to focus on it because the polling tells them it's their key to success. I wish they would focus on finding common ground with the Pres and getting some stuff done. I don't enjoy paying more for less healthcare benefits every year.

    January 31, 2010 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  17. Bernard

    all you people who seem to be wishing another 911 to happen on Obama's watch, just remember that it made Bush popular and stay in office when he probably would have been a 1-term pres. otherwise....

    So keep wishing for another attack like what happened on Bush's watch
    and it will only make Obama stronger

    only difference is that O. may actually pay attention to a terrorist threat warning, unlike Bush who ignored all the warnings!!!

    (I didn't vote for either of those party machine figure-heads)

    January 31, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  18. mike

    i enjoy how everyone is saying that we should try terrorists in the united state courts. if we want to abide by our system, they are not terrorists... they are innocent until proven guilty. let's label them only after they receive the guilty verdict. if we're calling them terrorists already, they are essentially assumed guilty and wouldn't receive a fair trial anyway. it's funny how people who are for the civilian court issue are calling the individuals terrorists? if you know that they are already "guilty" why not just leave them at Gitmo? I'd rather have them off united states soil. imagine if there was a jail brake? would we really want these innocent individuals to run free in our country, especially if we have already angered them by holding them captive? Moreover, the last thing i would want to do is walk buy the courthouse and see the man who "presumably" attempted to blow up an American jet on Christmas day...

    January 31, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  19. Rob

    The great progressive hero FDR tried German's in America during WW2 in front of Military Tribunal. Should a foriegn national that is trying to kill americans on american soil be given the oppertunity to hide behind the document that they are trying destroy? If you had a loved one on a flight that was attacked 5 months from now and it was revealed that this Underpants bomber knew about it would you be glad that he had his lawyer provided to him in a timely manner?

    January 31, 2010 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  20. james

    Wow. This self incrimination, self-introspection that Obama started is catching on. Apologetic Republicans? What next?

    January 31, 2010 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  21. Joseph

    of course hes going to say this now bush isnt president anymore and never will be, its easy to throw him under the bus, but no one cared about this when bush was president as long as the terrorist got caught and punished we were happy, now that obamas president they want to find ANYTHING to fault him ANYTHING

    January 31, 2010 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  22. MatthewDetroit

    You people can talk about what ever you want....

    But here is a PROBLEM in black and white...

    Obama's $3.8T proposed budget predicts national deficit will crest at record-breaking $1.6T in current fiscal year.

    That is a PROBLEM.

    January 31, 2010 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  23. GP

    What laws do we try the shoe bomber under? If an American citizen tries to blow up a plane in France are they going to be tried under French law or American law?

    Since we are not officially at war, the Geneva Conventions do not apply.

    Our justice system is the greatest in the world. Why are some people so afraid of showing the world the might of our justice system?

    We will never be able bomb, kill or otherwise destroy the tactic known as terrorism. We have to show the world we will not be scared into abandoning our principles.

    January 31, 2010 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  24. Bill Surrey

    The fact that Mitch kept his yap shut 'till now indicates he needs a spine replacement. Politics at its worst. PS. Being a progressive(lib.) is not a crime there, Mr. T Party. Sticks and stones, loser.

    January 31, 2010 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  25. scott

    Actually they should use Mitch as a secret anti terror weapon. They should threaten to send him in on a speaking tour of the mideast. That should bring them to thier knees.

    January 31, 2010 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
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