Appearing yesterday on Fox Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) railed against the Obama administration’s decision to try a captured Somali terrorist in U.S. courts. McConnell said captured foreign terrorists should be detained and tried by military commissions at the controversial U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Why does McConnell think U.S. courts are unsuitable to try foreign terrorists? Because the U.S. justice system was unable to secure a murder conviction in the tabloid-fodder case of Casey Anthony, a Florida woman acquitted last week of the murder of her two year old daughter Caylee.
McConnell told Fox’s Bret Baier:
We just found with the Caylee Anthony case, how difficult is to get a conviction in a U.S. court.
I don’t think a foreigner is entitled to all the protections of the Bill of Rights. They should not be in U.S. courts. They should be at Guantanamo and before military commissions.
As CAP’s Ken Gude notes, the trial of the Somali terrorist, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, will hardly be the first instance of the U.S. capturing a terrorist abroad and bringing them to the U.S. to be tried:
The most recent similar case dates from the Bush administration, when Afia Siddique was detained in Afghanistan by U.S. troops in 2008 for attempting to shoot U.S. military personnel. She was quickly brought to New York, convicted, and sentenced to 86 years in prison. During the Clinton administration, Mir Aimal Kasi stood outside CIA headquarters in Virginia in 1995 and murdered two CIA employees as they drove into work. He was captured in Pakistan in 1997 and brought to Virginia for trial, convicted of murder, and executed in 2002.
Gude says conservatives lodged no complaints about these procedures until the Obama administration picked up where his predecessors left off. “U.S. criminal courts…have an excellent record at convicting terrorists, writes Gude, adding that “military-commissions convictions can be counted on one hand.”
New York University’s Center for Law and Security tracks terrorism trials and found, according to a report most recently updated in April, that U.S. courts have successfully convicted 187 defendants on “Jihadi-related” terror charges since 9/11. Likewise, law-oriented group Human Rights First found even more convictions related to Islamic extremism, writing in a report:
[F]ederal courts, while not perfect, are a fit and flexible resource that should be used along with other government resources—including military force, intelligence gathering, diplomatic initiatives, and cultural and economic strategies—as an important part of a multi-pronged counterterrorism strategy.
At least McConnell, for his part, supports trying terrorism suspects at all. His Senate colleague Lindsey Graham (R-SC) laid out a case last week for what amounted to permanent interrogation of untried suspects.