LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell
on Friday swiftly condemned the decision to bring five terror
suspects to U.S. soil for trial, calling it a "huge mistake" that
will weaken national security.
"These are people who orchestrated a mass murder, and it was an
act of war, not a criminal matter," McConnell told reporters
gathered in his Louisville office.
McConnell, R-Ky., reacted to word that self-proclaimed Sept. 11
mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged
conspirators in the 2001 attacks will stand trial in a civilian
federal courthouse in New York. Attorney General Eric Holder said
the defendants should be tried where their crimes occurred.
Prosecutors expect to seek the death penalty.
McConnell said bringing the suspects to the U.S. was a "step
backward for our national security."
"It is a huge mistake," he said. "Nobody in America wants
these terrorists tried in their local communities."
Congress created a system to have terror suspects tried at
Guantanamo Bay, McConnell said.
"When you bring them into the U.S. court system, you give them
the protections of the Bill of Rights and ... the U.S. criminal
justice system," he said. "The defendant is entitled to know
everything. And so that's how classified information gets out and
compromises our national security."
Shifting the trials to the civilian legal system could make it
tougher to win convictions, McConnell said. If the suspects were
acquitted, a judge "could simply let them go here in the United
States," he said.
McConnell said the trial of the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, the
so-called "blind sheik" who was tried for a plot against some
two-dozen New York City landmarks, resulted in classified
information being revealed and ending up in the hands of the
al-Qaida terrorist network.
"Nobody is advocating leaving even these horrible criminals
incarcerated forever without some adjudication," the senator said.
"But we have a way to adjudicate them. There are courtrooms at
Guantanamo, there is a military commission system set up for the
very purpose of trying these people."
U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, R-Ky., also denounced moving
the terror suspects to American soil.
The congressman said the defendants "pose an all-too-real
security risk and do not deserve the same rights and privileges as
our own citizens."
"I see no reason why these terrorists cannot be brought to
justice right where they are in Cuba," Rogers said in a statement.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)