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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MCCONNELL. Madam President, most Americans recognize that our continued success in preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil depends on our ability as a Nation to remain vigilant and clear-eyed about the nature of the threats we face at home and abroad.

Some threats come in the form of terror cells in distant countries. Others
come from people plotting attacks within our own borders.

And still others can come from a failure to recognize the distinction between everyday crimes and war crimes.

This last category of threat is extremely serious but sometimes overlooked--and that is why Senators Graham, Lieberman, and McCain have offered an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill that would reassure the American people that the Senate has not taken its eye off the ball.

The amendment is simple and straightforward. It explicitly prohibits any of the terrorists who were involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks from appearing for trial in a civilian U.S. courtroom. Instead, it would require the government to use military commissions; that is, the courts proper to war, for trying these men.

By requiring the government to use military commissions, the supporters of this amendment are reaffirming two things: First, that these men should have a fair trial.

And second, we are reaffirming what American history has always showed; namely, that war crimes and common crimes are to be tried differently--and that military courts are the proper forum for prosecuting terrorists.

Some might argue that terrorists like Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the 9/11 conspirators, are not enemy combatants--that they are somehow on the same level as a convenience store stick-up man. But listen to the words of Moussaoui himself. He disagrees.

Asked if he regretted his part in the September 11 attacks, Moussaoui said: ``I just wish it will happen on the 12th, the 13th, the 14th, the 15th, the 16th, the 17th, and [on and on].'' He went on to explain how happy he was to learn of the deaths of American service men and women in the Pentagon on 9/11. And then he mocked an officer for weeping about the loss of men under her command, saying:

I think it was disgusting for a military person to pretend that they should not be killed as an act of war. She is military. She should expect that people who are at war with her will try to kill her. I will never cry because an American bombed my camp.

There is no question Moussaoui himself believes he is an enemy combatant engaged in a war against us.

The Senate has also made itself clear on this question. Congress created the military commissions system 3 years ago, on a bipartisan basis, precisely to deal with prosecutions of al-Qaida terrorists consistent with U.S. national security, with the expectation that they would be used for that purpose.

The Senate reaffirmed this view 2 years ago when it voted 94-3 against transferring detainees from Guantanamo stateside, including the 9/11 planners.

We reaffirmed it again earlier this year when we voted 90-6 against using any funds from the war supplemental to transfer any of the Guantanamo detainees to the United States.

And just this summer the Senate reaffirmed that military commissions are the proper forum for bringing enemy combatants to justice when we approved without objection an amendment to that effect as part of the Defense authorization bill.

Further, our past experiences with terror trials in civilian courts have clearly been shown to undermine our national security. During the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first Trade Center bombing, we saw how a small bit of testimony about a cell phone battery was enough to tip off terrorists that one of their key communication links had been compromised.

We saw how the public prosecution of the Blind Sheikh, Abdel Rahman, inadvertently provided a rich source of intelligence to Osama bin Laden ahead of the 9/11 attacks. And in that case, we remember that Rahman's lawyer was convicted of smuggling orders to his terrorist disciples.

We also saw how the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui resulted in the leak of sensitive information.

And we saw how the trials of the East African Embassy bombers compromised intelligence methods to the benefit of Osama bin Laden.

The administration calls these prosecutions ``successful.'' But given the loss of sensitive information that resulted, former Federal judge and Attorney General Michael Mukasey has noted ``there are many words one might use to describe how these events unfolded; `successfully' is not among them.''

Trying terror suspects in civilian courts is also a giant headache for communities; just look at the experience of Alexandria, VA, during the Moussaoui trial. As I have pointed out before, parts of Alexandria became a virtual encampment every time Moussaoui was moved to the courthouse. Those were the problems we saw in Northern Virginia when just one terrorist was tried in civilian court. What will happen to Alexandria, New York City, or other cities if several terrorists are tried there? You can imagine.

It is because of dangers and difficulties like these that we established military commissions in the first place. The administration has now rewritten the military commission procedures precisely to its liking. If we can't expect the very people who masterminded the 9/11 attacks and went to war with us to fall within the jurisdiction of these military courts, then who can we expect to fall within the jurisdiction of these military courts?

The American people have made themselves clear on this issue. They do not want Guantanamo terrorists brought to the U.S., and they certainly do not want the men who planned the 9/11 attacks on America to be tried in civilian courts--risking national security and civic disruption in the process.

Congress created military commissions for a reason. But if the administration fails to use military commissions for self-avowed combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, then it is wasting this time-honored and essential tool in the war on terror.

I would ask the opponents of the Graham amendment the following: what material benefit is derived by bringing avowed foreign combatants like KSM into a civilian court and giving them all the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen; and why should we further delay justice for the families of the victims of 9/11?


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