Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sharply criticized the Obama administration’s prosecution of the War on Terror Wednesday, saying that it was too concerned with “symbolism over security” and that it acted wrongly in using law-enforcement to combat terrorism.
Sen. McConnell, in his remarks delivered at the Heritage Foundation, argued the Obama administration has too often shifted anti-terror policies “not on a careful study of the facts, but as a way of conspicuously distancing itself from the policies of the past, even the ones that worked.”
“Rather than study the practical consequences of fulfilling its campaign pledges, it would choose again and again to hastily plow ahead and see what happened.”
The senator emphasized that perhaps the biggest mistake during President Obama’s tenure has been the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bomber — as well as its response to criticism over the matter.
“Americans wanted us to get every bit of information we could about al Qaeda from this man. Instead, the administration put a higher priority on reading him his Miranda rights and getting him an attorney.”
At the heart of this problem, Sen. McConnell explained, is the adoption of law-enforcement policies, instead of military and intelligence, to combat terrorism.
“Since his very first days in office, the President has been placing the attorney general in charge of key intelligence and military and defense matters.”
“The closing of the military detention facility at Guantanamo is being coordinated by the Attorney General. The special task force on interrogation and transfer policies is chaired by the Attorney General. The Interagency Task Force on Detainee Disposition is co-chaired by the Attorney General.
“So it’s no wonder that time and time again we see a law enforcement mentality intrude into military and intelligence operations. This is wrong. The Attorney General should not be running the War on Terror.”
In response to Obama’s silence on the handling of the Christmas Day Bomber, McConnell and several colleagues have requested the testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder before Congress.
McConnell noted another symptom of using law-enforcement to combat terrorism: the administration’s decision to hold terrorist trials in civilian courts, instead of before a military tribunal.
Instead of trying terrorists “the way foreign combatants captured on the battlefield have been treated since Revolutionary times,” McConnell said, the Obama administration has decided to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the confessed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, “in the same courtroom as a common criminal — the same courtroom as a common criminal…without consulting with local officials.”
“I’ll even recommend a venue,” the senator added, “a $200 million state-of-the-art facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
“As recently as last year, Congress updated the Military Commissions Act with input from the White House. We realized civilian courts weren’t on the right setting,” the senator noted. “Why would the administration help rewrite the military commissions law if they didn’t intend to use it for the very people, like the Christmas Day Bomber, for whom it was written?”
McConnell also refuted notions that al-Qaeda would only use trials held in Guantanamo for propaganda purposes. “There is no doubt that al-Qaeda will use a civilian court in New York or a new long-term detention facility inside the United States for the same recruiting and propaganda purposes for which they’ve used other courts and Guantanamo in the past.”
“And this fact alone eliminates the administration’s only justification for closing Guantanamo.”
Sen. McConnell, the previous day, co-sponsored legislation that would block funding of a civilian trial for the 9/11 terrorists. He re-iterated his pledge to do so during his talk.
Sen. McConnell did note that the Obama administration has pursued the right course in Afghanistan. However, the American people need complete success in the War on Terror, not partial success.
“As the attempted Christmas-Day bombing showed all too plainly, partial success isn’t good enough."