February 4th, 2010
01:49 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Fact Check: Politics driving terror case complaints?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Holder last week to explain the decision to put AbdulMutallab before a judge rather than a military tribunal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Holder last week to explain the decision to put AbdulMutallab before a judge rather than a military tribunal.

(CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday tried to knock down Republican criticism of how the case of accused "Undiebomber" Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was handled, pointing out that previous suspects went through civilian courts without GOP objections.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asked Holder last week to explain the decision to put AbdulMutallab before a judge rather than a military tribunal. In a Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" and a Wednesday speech to the Heritage Foundation, McConnell called the decision to try suspected terrorists before civilian courts a "mistake."

But in his response to McConnell, Holder told the GOP leader that similar procedures "were not criticized when employed by previous administrations."

"The decision to charge Mr. AbdulMutallab in federal court, and the methods used to interrogate him, are fully consistent with the long-established and publicly known policies and practices of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the United States government as a whole, as implemented for many years by administrations of both parties," Holder wrote, citing a series of Bush administration decisions to support his argument.

Read the facts and the bottom line after the jump:

Fact Check: Are GOP objections to civilian trials for terrorists new?

- The treatment given AbdulMutallab, the man accused of trying to blow up a Michigan-bound jetliner on Christmas Day with explosives hidden in his underwear, has become a rallying cry for GOP critics of the Obama administration. Holder's response echoes a charge leveled by several Obama administration supporters, suggesting today's objections are motivated by politics, not policy.
- McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told CNN that the issue isn't politics, but flexibility. He said U.S. officials should have learned from previous cases like those of Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui that such trials are "disruptive."
- McConnell didn't raise objections to convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid being tried before a civilian court. Stewart said there was no option to try Reid, who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner in December 2001, before military tribunal at the time, and the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had not yet been set up to hold suspected terrorists.
- The Bush administration began drawing up plans for those tribunals in late 2001, and Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters in 2002 that the Justice Department had considered and rejected a military court for Reid. But Stewart said both the Reid and Moussaoui cases ultimately required extensive security and, in Moussaoui's case, a lengthy sentencing process.

"If you didn't know there was a problem at the time and now you know and you don't raise a concern, is consistency smart?" he asked.

- McConnell did fight talk of moving prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in 2007, while the Bush administration pondered whether to close the prison under pressure from a newly elected Democratic Congress. A McConnell-authored resolution opposing any plans to move prisoners to U.S. facilities passed the Senate on a 94-3 vote in July 2007.

Bottom line: McConnell did lead objections to transferring Guantanamo inmates to U.S. prisons. His objections to civilian trials for terrorists came only after cases like Moussaoui and Reid had been prosecuted in civilian courts by the Bush administration.

Filed under: Eric Holder • Fact Check
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Pat F

    Too bad CNN doesn't have the cojones to say FALSE in its "bottom line" – that Holder is a big fat liar as well as a traitor.

    February 4, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  2. Alex

    Of course. Mitch McConnell is a political hack who wouldn't tie his shoes without looking to Rush Limbaugh and the lowest common denominators of his base giving him their ignorant, flag-waving approval. We need to start recognizing international laws and stop acting like alleged "terrorists" are some how a unique category unto themselves. They are either prisoners of war or they are alleged criminals, and they are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions in the first place or entitled to due process under the law in the second case.

    February 4, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. What???

    Again, let's compare the previous administration's record on fighting violent extremists to the current.

    Arrests of terrorist on U.S. soil dramatically increased. Bush administration mostly spied on U.S. citizens, but they did have a lot of pretty color threat warnings on a daily basis.

    Attacks on U.S. soil....zero for the current administration. Bush administration – worst attack in the history of the nation and too many others to name.

    Killing of terrorists abroad....dramatic increase for the current administration. Bush administration – mired in Iraq and basically had to pay off Sunni tribes men to stop killing americans.

    I'd say Attorney Eric Holder, keep pressing forward. The intelligent people will see the progress we're making. The dunderhead idiots couldn't find their booties with both hands = GOP

    February 4, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. Ed Tallahassee

    The Republicans are against anything Obama is for, unless it would be something that is in lock and step with the Republican Party Line, then they would claim that he stole it.

    The Republicans have no shame, and they only care about getting back into power. When they were in power they ruined everything and used the Federal Government like a piggy bank and bring brother supporting their own self interest at the cost of the common man, women, children, and the environment.

    February 4, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. Preston kk

    Pkm i was always told if you were put under arrest you were read your rights the gop does even know the law heaven help us

    February 4, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. Marc

    Bottom line, he wasn't against them when it was Bush (R) in the White House, now that it is Obama (D) he is STRONGLY against it.
    Politics as usual.

    February 4, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Runofthemill


    republicons have always put politics ahead of actual national security. From A Mitchel Palmer, to Joe McCarthy to nixon to reagan to bush to mcconnell there is a well worn path of fear monger and lies, switch out anarchist for communist for jihadist and the rhetoric is exactly the same from a century ago to now.

    BTW - cnn has a quick straw poll question - but it misses the point. It says "do you agree with the tea baggin agenda?" Like most healthy men I enjoy dishing out a good tea bagging, but thereal question should be "do you have any idea what the tea bag agenda IS?" I'd be willing to bet that beyond a few bumper sticker slogans the tea baggers repeat until they think they are true not one of them could articulate and actual agenda. Cutting taxes and protecting freedom is not an agenda. It is a campaign slogan. Calling Our President a socialist is not an

    February 4, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  8. Bob

    I am so sick of looking at and listening to this guy McConnell. He talks out of both sides of his mouth. I wish he would be honest one time and come out and say That he will do anything, or say anything, because the Reps lost and the country elected a black man. These guys could care less what happens to average Americans .. It about power, money, and keeping their jobs.

    February 4, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Steve in Denver

    So, the fact is that McConnell, like his bretheren neocons, is a lying, hypocritical sack of doo-doo. When bush does something, it is great. When Obama does the same thing, it is putting the country at risk.

    February 4, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. Angie in PA

    Once again the HYPOCRISY From the Republicans kills me! I am so FED UP with them and their political GAMES! Thats all they do is lie, fearmonger, twist, bash. God for bid if they should goveren and work for the people and work with the President and congress to fix our problems instead of worring about party and theirselves first. MY GOD THEY ARE PATHETIC!!


    February 4, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. An 8 year old ELEPHANT dung heap, does not transform into compost in just 1 year!

    Hyprocrisy, the number one republiklan "family value".

    February 4, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. RR

    Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Rethuglians need to shut up. It is so blatantly obvious that they will go out of their way with their hypocrisy just to blast Obama.

    What can they possibly say to refute the fact that the FBI has gotten a ton of intelligence out of the bomber that even led to the arrest of 10 people in Malyasia.

    The Republicans want everyone to believe that they are the only ones who know how to deal with national security and seem to have no problem contradicting their own previous policies just to try to make Obama and the Democrats look bad.

    I really hope this backfires on them....big time.

    February 4, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. SocialismBad

    These stupid Democrats just don't get it! These terrorists should NOT be Mirandized and treated as criminals the minute they say they are part of AQ!!! Now that the military tribunals have been setup, USE THEM! Keep Gitmo open as a trial site and prison for these WAR CRIMINALS.

    February 4, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. Cynthia

    See this is what I'm talking about. Somebody needs to call out these lying decietful people. They start whinning about everything this administration does as if this stuff didn't happen during bush adminstration. This is becoming so unreal and I'm tired of these lying republicians running around like President Obama and his adminstration is doing things they never heard of before. a bunch of losers

    February 4, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    GOP are inconsistant when it comes to terrorist being tried by civilians. I have no problem with civilian courts. These people need to be tried without some kangaroo court to show the world that we abide by our own rules.

    February 4, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. ATL Guy

    The reason why military tribunals shouldn't be used is JOSE PADILLA. The military so botched this case that Padilla couldn't be brought to trial in a fair way. The Republicans are arguing against facts in this case. The more they try to sound outraged the more ridiculous they look. In this case, there's no "there" there. You look more stupid by the day.

    February 4, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |

    Fear, Fear, FEAR!!! We must ALL LIVE IN FEAR!!

    All Fear the Tea Baggers, the Rethuglican'ts, Rush Limpbah, Pat Roberstoned, and Pat the Talking-Head Buchanananananan.

    They ALL want us to live in FEAR!!

    February 4, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. Ethan

    "Bottom line: McConnell did lead objections to transferring Guantanamo inmates to U.S. prisons. His objections to civilian trials for terrorists came only after cases like Moussaoui and Reid had been prosecuted in civilian courts by the Bush administration."

    In other words:

    The Republican Party is playing politics with our national security. AGAIN.

    February 4, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  19. Jeff in Virginia

    This picture of McConnell is priceless.

    You can literally see him holding in the hot air.

    February 4, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. Josiah

    9 years late and Trillions of dollars later – CNN crawls out from behind their silence during the previous admin – there's a fact check for ya – in all of CNN's history when, other than with Bush/Cheney, have they whole-heartedly given up on their mission – as soon as there was a new admin. the gloves were off and every little thing, important or not has been tweaked, obsessed over, manipulated or manufactured by CNN into a sick twisted fun-house mirror view of reality. Beware CNN you are culpable in your attempts to distort reality for ratings. – I mean I get it, you have a lot, tons, of time to fill up – so Wolf screaming that this is the worst recession since the Depression up to 3,000 times a day does fill up the time, but it invokes and engenders a bit of a distorted reality that does linger and affect society.

    February 4, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |