- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday threatened to try to cut off the cash the Obama administration will need to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and hold terrorism trials in U.S. courts.

A day after the White House abruptly changed course and said it was reconsidering its decision to hold a terrorism trial in downtown New York, the Kentucky Republican mocked the Obama administration for citing former President George W. Bush as a precedent for holding such trials on U.S. soil.

“The only time this administration ever cites the previous administration for a precedent is to mention that there was some terrorists tried in U.S. courts. We now know that was a mistake. That was a mistake by the previous administration,” Mr. McConnell said.

“Three years ago, we passed military commissions legislation 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,” he said.

Asked whether he would tell the president, “You are not getting the money,” Mr. McConnell said: “Yes, absolutely. And I think that will be done on a bipartisan basis. And the sooner the administration figures out that whatever domestic support they had for this is totally collapsing.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, also said the administration should shift the trials to military courts, which he said have been reviewed by Congress to ensure fairness. He and other Republicans have criticized officials for charging Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in civilian court instead of turning him over to military authorities. Mr. Abdulmutallab is accused of plotting to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

“We have to make a distinction between a kid who breaks into a sandwich shop in Detroit and a Nigerian terrorist who wants to blow up an airplane flying into Detroit,” Mr. Alexander said.

Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, said Sunday that the cost alone would make it hard to justify holding the trials in New York.

“I think this is one of those things that sounded good in theory, but in practice doesn’t work so well,” he said.

Also on Sunday, a top presidential adviser said the Obama administration hadn’t decided where to try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other suspected terrorists.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. decided in November that the trials would be held in New York, where a tunnel connects the federal courthouse to a fortified detention center. City officials are resisting that plan because of security concerns and cost estimates as high as $200 million.

“The president believes we need to take into consideration what the local authorities are saying,” White House aide David Axelrod said. “But he also believes this: He believes that we ought to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and all others who are involved in terrorist acts to justice, swift and sure, in the American justice system.”

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mohammed will be tried and convicted and is likely to be executed.

“Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he’s going to meet his maker. He will be brought to justice and he’s likely to be executed for the heinous crimes he committed,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Mr. Gibbs did not confirm reports that the Obama administration has begun looking for venues other than the heart of New York City to prosecute Mohammed. “We are talking with the authorities in New York. We understand their logistical concerns,” he said. “We will work with them and come to a solution that we think will bring about justice.”

Mr. McConnell said U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which already has a $20 million courthouse designed to try terrorist suspects, is ideal.

“Interrogate them, detain them and try them in a military commission off shore at Guantanamo,” he said.

Mr. Obama failed to meet his promise to close the detention facility within a year of taking office. The administration now plans to transfer some of Guantanamo’s remaining 192 detainees to a state prison it hopes to acquire in Illinois.

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