February 2nd, 2010
04:07 PM ET
13 years ago

Democratic opposition to terror trials grows

Washington (CNN) – Congressional Democrats are increasingly concerned about the President's plan to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to block it.

Eighteen senators, including two Democrats and one Independent, unveiled a bill Tuesday to withhold funding the President requested to try terror suspects in civilian courts.

"It's an unusual thing we're doing here," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT. "We are trying to use Congress' power of the purse to stop these trials."

The move comes a day after the President requested in his budget a boost in homeland security funding to help pay for the transfer and trials of detainees on U.S. soil.

One of the Democratic co-sponsors is Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year.

When asked by CNN if the White House is being tone deaf in asking Democrats like her to support bringing Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., Lincoln replied: "I think I would be tone deaf if I didn't respond to the people who I believe are very concerned about how this is happening, and if I wasn't speaking out and speaking my mind. It's why I'm here today."

"I think its important for the administration to hopefully hear from those of us who do have grave concerns," said Lincoln.

A similar Senate measure got 55 votes in November, not enough to meet a 60 vote threshold to pass.

But some Democratic senators who voted no last time said they're now inclined to support a measure
blocking the administration's plans for Guantanamo detainees to be tried in civilian courts.

"I think we should look for other options," Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania told CNN. "It's not just the security cost but the real concern people have as to what that would do to their communities."

"I think there has been a shift in a lot of the analysis and a lot of the thinking that under girds what people's positions are," said Casey.

Democratic sources said the way Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown successfully used this issue against his Democratic opponent in last month's Massachusetts Senate race has spooked some congressional Democrats.

In fact the Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin D-Illinois, who supports trying detainees in civilian courts, told CNN that Senate Democrats had a spirited conversation about the issue during Tuesday's policy lunch.

"It's controversial, there is no question about it," said Durbin. "There are some Democratic senators who oppose using regular courts for our detainees."

Senator Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, another Democrat facing re-election this year, said he believes military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay or another military facility is likely the best way to achieve justice in a speedy, safe and cost effective way. He also said he's inclined to support a measure to withhold funding to bring detainees before U.S. courts.

"I'm not going to vote for $200 million dollar more in security if we can try them in a place where you don't have to spend that money, not at a time when you have to cut funding for a lot of worthy things," said Bayh.

Other Democrats, however, still support trying detainees in the civilian court system.

"I'm not for it being NYC, I think that's a bad idea," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, "but I think we should be able to prosecute and house terrorists in our own country."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, issued a statement arguing that "federal courts have proven time and again that they are capable of handling terrorism cases."

"They have successfully tried hundreds of terrorism cases, and nearly 350 terrorists are being held securely in our federal prisons today. In stark contrast to that record, very few of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have been brought to justice through military commissions," said Leahy.

Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Homeland Security • Terrorism
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Scott, Tucson

    LOL you libs but this wimp of a clown in the White House and now your own party is turning against obama. A system was already in place to try these terrorist but Noooo your boys obama and Holder had to screw it up. Next some liberal judge would probably release the terrorists when they stand up in court and before the world and claim they were tortured and that recent White House claims that they would be tried and executed have surely poison the jury selection pool.

    February 2, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. Ndubueze Chuku

    Lilly-livered whimps. This is a shame. As a democrat, I am highly appalled by these idiots. What are you opposing? Now I see why there are so many independents in the USA.

    February 2, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  3. Sasha

    These chickens are utterly terrified of *captured* terrorists.

    In other words, they have, in their soul, lost the War on Terror and have demonstrated an unfitness to lead.

    February 2, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. EDDIE

    Why doesn't she doesn't she run as a repub?She acts just like one.

    February 2, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Sasha

    "Their only motivation was that the details of the trials might embarass Bush. "

    No, Bush did a remarkable job of embarrassing himself without any help from Democrats. The tragedy is that he shamed the US in the process.

    This is the problem: A success prosecution (almost guaranteed) of these losers would be further demonstration of the incompetence of Bush specifically and the GOP in general. "Republican" is a toxic brand right now (the newest senator from Massachusetts heavily downplayed his party affiliation); any kind of success by Obama and his party would hasten the Republican party to the relevance of the Whigs. The GOP is fighting tooth-and-nail for its political life.

    February 2, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |

    Terrorist should not be given the rights of americans. No other country would treat them as we do. Most other countries would have already killed them!

    Since when do terroists deserve the same justice as a American? Military tribunals are not as costly because they will not allow all the media frenzy which will require more security.

    Obama wants to help the economy but will spend millions on security that isn't necessary if the military does the trials. As a veteran I am offended that you feel they deserve this special treatment just so you can look good.

    If Obama cared about the economy he would look at the cost difference between the two choices.

    Sorry Mr. President, we are watching and we see what you are really concerned with and it isn't getting this country back on it's feet. You are concerned with campaining...problem with this is you are the president start acting like one. Give up the costly trials and healthcare reform that is going to fdrag this country down and work on getting the jobs back in this country and stopping the ones leaving.

    February 2, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  7. donttreadonme

    A government of the people, by the people, for the people! Not a bunch of lib dems in office pushing a radical agenda based on fabricated and incorrect interpretations of our Constitution!

    Better start listening to the people dems or you will soon be outside looking in!

    February 2, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  8. Mr. Moderate

    Why was it OK for terrirism suspects to be tried in civilian courts when Bush was president but now the president is weak???? Hmmm....why the different standard? What a bunch of cowards we have running this country who only care about doing the politically expedient thing to make their re-election as easy as possible.

    If the best Al Qaida can do is some kid with explosives in his underwear, I am not to worried about some sort of full scale assault on a prison or courthouse.

    Oh and regarding shoe bomber Richard Ried. At the time he attempted his attack there were already suspects being held in anticipation of military tribunals, Another RNC talking point ruled invalid!

    February 2, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  9. RDS

    What is the big deal?! Are we scared that our justice system isn't going to work? Come on..you mean to tell me that pesky Constitution that the Repubs like to bring out everytime Obama speaks doesn't hold the key!! So you're basically saying that the Justice System that we go around the world promoting isn't the 'Best" (gasp!). Terrorists HAVE been tried in America. Terrorists HAVE been convicted in America. Terrorists ARE currently sitting in American jails..so what exactly are you guys protesting?!

    February 2, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  10. Albo58

    Let's face it, this President and his stooge AG's plan to have show trials in New York City was beyond wrong and stupid in the first place! Those murdering dogs at Gitmo should be tried in a military court there and subsequently executed there if found guilty. They are illegal combatants and are NOT protected by our Constitution.

    February 2, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Money where your mouths are GOPers: what are you REALLY afraid of? This going as well as McVeigh's and Moussoui's trials? These guys get convicted after looking like wild-eyed, uneducated, brain-washed zealot morons, then spend the rest of their lives in a max-security federal penitentiary under lock and key, 23 hours per day spent in a 9×12 room with 1 hour to play in the yard by themselves and you think we're letting them off easy? You think they're going to have an oportunity to escape or continue planning or contributing to terrorism?

    The REAL danger here: that it ends up looking like just as much of a kangaroo court as the military tribunals would. THAT would be a disaster. But this nonsense about looking soft on them and treating it like crime instead of war and "oh noes, they's gonna escapes and pee in my lawn then blows me up!"....hogwash and shenanigans.

    February 2, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Sarah

    All I can say is that some of you Democrats are starting to sound more like the RETARDED Republicans........either suport this President of step aside.......

    February 2, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "No other country would treat them as we do. Most other countries would have already killed them! "

    Taking your premise as true (even though it is patently false), wouldn't that be precisely what makes us the bastion of freedom, justice and respect for human rights that we claim to be? You know, that whole claim this country was founded upon? "Inalienable" human rights? Look up the word "inalienable"...there are no caveats.

    February 2, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  14. CAW in MD

    @Mike in MN,

    Actually, Obama is the only one acting constitutionally. Has Congress declared war on "terror"? (Remember, constitutionally, only Congress can declare war). No? Okay, so much for enemy combatant - you can't have an enemy combatant without a war. Has Congress declared war in Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. So what exactly is the basis for holding these idiots as enemy combatants?

    The military tribunals are a joke, and Obama knows that as well. Why? Because Congress hasn't produced legislation that enables a framework for fair military tribunals. The Republicans for the 5 years they had control of both sides of Congress refused to do so, and have demagogued the issue incessantly since the Dems took over. I will grant you that Democrats have also pandered on this issue as well.

    Nobody has provided a shred of proof (if you will pardon the pun) as to why the US court system cannot handle these terrorists. Yes, it will cost money. So do military tribunals. Yes, it gives the terrorists a platform for spewing their bile. But if we are so stupid as a nation that we are swayed by the words of a terrorist, then we have far more troubles than a trial. But there is a great positive benefit - the US judicial system is still held in some regard across the world. Yes, world opinion matters. If tried and convicted in a court of law without an obvious ax to grind (as opposed to a military tribunal), that is a win for the American system of justice and America in general. If Bush had chosen this route 8 years ago, it is entirely possible we would find ourselves in a different place now. But we'll never know, because the real idiot is Bush and how he screwed up this entire debacle, with a willing and craven Congress.

    February 2, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    It's an election year and these politicians just want to spread more hate and fear.

    February 2, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  16. gary davis harbor oregon

    some of the democrats don't have any balls or what ever you want to call it . they need to quite there job as a representative to the people and let someone that will stand with Mr. Obama and the people and help america change from the cheney rove bush era of spend spend spend and lie threat and steal from the people 🙂 gone on board or get off the planet unit with the people or leave sissy boo hoo babies 🙂

    February 2, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  17. donttreadonme

    Military courts just make more sense….unless of course you have something against the Military! Anything goes to push your agenda eh libs? Funny these guys are more concerned about the rights of those that would kill us then those who protect us!

    February 2, 2010 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  18. donttreadonme

    This just proves the point that liberals do not have the guts to do what it takes to protect our citizens. Voting these clowns in during time of war is a disaster. Stop the bleeding vote all of the libs out!

    February 2, 2010 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  19. Ridgeway

    Well, the Christmas bomber roasted his chestnuts on an open fire and got immediate medical attention. Why? Let them roast until he tells all. Who cares? If they'd burned off there'd be no chance of a Christmas Bomber Jr. You know what the Muslims say, "Kids today. They blow up so fast!"

    February 2, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. Emma

    No matter where the trials will be, it will induce fear, blame, generate enormous costs, to name a few of the downside issues. Does anyone have the "right" place for the trial? (Convincingly?)

    February 2, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  21. El Kababa

    And I forgot to mention, as a good Liberal, I have no problem with executing Stalinist dictators like Saddam Hussein or terrorists who would murder people at random. We hung a lot of Nazis after World War II. I just prefer to give them a trial first, then hang them.

    Our courts convict a lot of innocent Americans who are later exculpated. I don't want innocent blood on our hands. Bring them from Guantanamo to the US, give them a public trial, give them the God-given rights that belong to all men and women, then deal with them appropriately.

    February 2, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  22. D

    Vote the cowards out. We need people to uphold the constitution, not people that flip flop because they are scared they are going to lose an election. How sickening..

    February 2, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  23. Mike in MN

    It looks like there really is biapartisian agreement in congress, but it is all against Obama's liberal progressive agenda.
    Obama is on a last chance US tour to try and convince the majority of voters who are opposed to much of his agenda to change their mind and support it. He will try one more time to convince voters who are opposed to the stiumulus and believe that it has failed to like it and believe the lie that it has worked byond all expectations. He will try and get voters to support cap and trade and be happy to pay more for all there energy and to pay more for all their goods and services after businesses pass on their higher energy costs to consumers. He will try and get voters to support the big government, trillion dollar, special interest pork filled health care bill even though voters want them thrown in the craper and to start over.
    My guress is Obama will fail as the voters already understand the content of all these bills and have already made up their minds. Nothing will change and Blue Dogs will work with Republicans to stop Obama's agenda which is what the people want.

    February 2, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  24. irwin

    A democracy in name only! To be dispensed with at whim. Why don't we kill the lot of them, as Obama and Gibb already said KSM will be executed. A bunch of pandering clowns! The change we can believe in??? Bush-lite to the nth degree! All this terrorism and war crap is just a diversion! Americans, wake up, your treasure and meida coverage is being wasted on all this. Let's build up our country, help each other, and, most importantly, disband this military-industrial fascism!!

    February 2, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  25. Jim

    Come on Democrats! Grow some spines!! Quit letting the Republicans cry and whine and scare you! Stick to your principles!

    February 2, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
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