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GOP leader Criticizes Plans for NYC Terror Trial


Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell says suspect should not be tired in a civilian court.

WASHINGTON—The Senate Republican leader on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of undermining U.S. national security by bringing a Somali man facing terrorism charges to New York for trial.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Mitch McConnell assailed the administration’s decision, arguing that the Somali citizen—Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame—belongs at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he could be tried by a military tribunal.

“The administration has purposefully imported a terrorist into the U.S. and is providing him all the rights of U.S. citizens in court,” McConnell said. “This ideologically rigidity being displayed by the administration is harming the national security of the United States of America.”

Senator administration officials said Tuesday that the military captured Warsame on April 19, and then put him aboard a Navy warship, where he was interrogated at sea by intelligence officials. Under interrogation, Warsame gave up what officials called important intelligence about al-Qaida in Yemen and its relationship with al-Shabab militants in Somalia. The two groups have been known to have ties, but the extent of that relationship has remained unclear.

After the interrogation was complete, the FBI stepped in and began the interrogation from scratch, in a way that could be used in court. After the FBI read Warsame his Miranda rights—the right to remain silent and speak with an attorney—he opted to keep talking for days, helping the government build its case.

“Why? Why? Why is a man, who is a known terrorist and enemy of the United States, being afforded these protections?” McConnell, R-Ky., asked. “And now, he is in the hands of the civilian authorities and will be given all the rights accorded to a U.S. citizen in a civilian court.”

President Barack Obama has said he would like to close the facility at Guantanamo, but Congress has repeatedly stopped the administration from transferring any detainees out of Guantanamo for trial in the U.S. Many in Congress want military commissions to handle the trials of terrorism cases.

McConnell’s remarks drew an immediate rebuke from Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, who pointed out that under the administrations of Republican President George W. Bush and Obama more than 400 suspected terrorists have been tried in civilian courts in the United States and are serving time in U.S. prisons.

“To come here and second-guess the president because he’s held a man for two months in military interrogation and now is being prosecuted in our criminal courts is totally unfair, unfair because the same standard was not applied to the Republican president who tried hundreds of would-be terrorists, accused terrorists in our criminal courts successfully,” Durbin said.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney defended the administration’s decision to detain Warsame for two months to allow intelligence officials to interrogate him.

“Wherever possible, first priority is and always has been to apprehend terrorist suspects and preserve the opportunity to elicit valuable intelligence that can help protect the American people,” said Carney, who added that the government acquired valuable information.

Carney said the Red Cross was told of his detention and officials had a chance to visit the site and interview the detainee.