The Justice Department is accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of taking out of context comments by Attorney General Eric Holder’s about using the civilian court system to try terrorism suspects.
McConnell, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, accused Holder of making an “audacious” claim about the war on terrorism during his speech before the American Constitution Society last week.
“Overlooking the all-volunteer military force that has heroically battled terrorists and insurgents for nearly a decade, our outstanding intelligence and counterterrorism experts, and many others, Holder asserted that America’s ‘most effective terror-fighting weapon’ is its civilian court system,” McConnell wrote.
“These comments insult those who have served on the front lines, but Holder’s clear intent was to justify the Obama administration’s two-year misadventure in treating captured terrorists like common criminals,” McConnell wrote.
Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that “selectively lifting words from the Attorney General’s speech to the American Constitution Society and using them out of context distorts their meaning and obscures reality.”
“The Attorney General said in his speech that ‘in disrupting potential attacks and effectively interrogating, prosecuting, and incarcerating terrorists - there is, quite simply, no more powerful tool than our civilian court system.’ That is true,” Miller said.
“This administration has reformed military commissions and we have confidence in their ability as one tool in our fight against terrorists, but they are still largely untested,” Miller said.
“As the Attorney General has said on repeated occasions, we are at war, and we must use every weapon available - military, diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement - to defeat a determined enemy,” Miller continued.
“Taking one of those weapons off the table would endanger our national security,” Miller said. “That would be the real insult to the thousands of men and women who have fought to defeat Al Qaeda.”
Late update: McConnell spokesman Don Stewart responds in an email: “I think Matt Miller needs to read the rest of the speech his boss gave. We (and numerous media outlets) took the words directly from the speech. While Matt cites an early mention in the speech, he overlooks this one:
“And they won’t come at all if we adhere to a rigid ideology, adopt a narrow methodology, or abandon our most effective terror-fighting weapon - our Article III court system.”
“So, nice spin, but the Attorney General clearly stated that ‘our Article III court system’ is ‘our most effective terror-fighting weapon.’ Period.”