Mitch McConnell’s Greatest Fear: DOJ Proved Him Wrong for 5% of the Cost

When the Obama Administration charged two Iraqis on al Qaeda related charges in Bowling Green, KY, Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed wailing about all the fearful things that could happen as a result.

In short, these two are not common criminals who should be provided all the rights and privileges of American citizens. They are enemy combatants who should be transferred to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they can be interrogated, detained, and brought to justice.

I commend the skill and professionalism of law enforcement and prosecutors for apprehending these terrorists and preventing further violence on our troops. And yes, it is possible to simply try them as common criminals in a civilian court. But after Congress created a $200-million, state-of-the-art facility in Guantanamo Bay precisely to handle foreign fighters like them, why would we want to? It simply makes no sense to saddle Kentuckians with the security and logistical costs associated with ensuring the safety of our residents during a civilian trial.


Trying these terrorists in a civilian courtroom could also risk compromising classified information used as evidence in the trial. That too has happened before in trials of this sort—and the Justice Department has already said that they expect the use of classified information in this case.


And what happens if these detainees are acquitted, as nearly happened with Ahmed Ghailani?


Unlike the Attorney General, Eric Holder, who believes that our “most effective terror-fighting weapon” is our court system, the good people of Kentucky know that our military is what keeps us safe. Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed everything to preserve our freedom and our rights as Americans.

Today, one of the two, Waad Ramadan Alwan, pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

Alwan, 30, a former resident of Iraq, pleaded guilty to all counts of a 23-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs); attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to al Qaeda in Iraq; as well as conspiracy to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles. Alwan was indicted by a federal grand jury in Bowling Green, Ky., on May 26, 2011.

Alwan faces a maximum sentence of life in prison under the sentencing guidelines and a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

Presumably, Alwan will testify against his co-defendant, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi under the kind of cooperation agreement not readily available at Gitmo.

Thus far, the citizens of KY have only had to pay for security for a few hearings (if my experience at a hearing for the much more dangerous Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is any indication, the additional security amounted to a few more burly guards). Alwan released no classified information. He plead guilty without even a trial.

In short, at least for Alwan, McConnell’s fear-mongering proved to be totally baseless.

And rather than spend the $400,000 we would have spent to house Alwan for six months at Gitmo–with similar amounts to be expected for the length of his potential life sentence–we have probably spent $20,000 to house him, even assuming SuperMax levels of security (which Abdulmutallab, at a low security prison, presumably didn’t have). Why was Mitch afraid of saving $380,000?

More importantly, why was Mitch so afraid of this typical result, in which a terrorism suspect pleads guilty before trial?

15 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Mitch’s alternate reality is that if those durn terrorists aren’t locked away forever in some dank hole in Gitmo, then they always end up hiding under his bed.

    Fookin’ chinless chicken hawk!

  2. JohnLopresti says:

    The Speaker is setting the tone for the 2012 campaign. If the menaces have received both congress’ and the administration’s rapt attention during the past 3+ years and counting, the ‘012 fall campaigning Republicans in Kentucky would rather many somewhat disaffected, desultory readers of the press thereabouts not consider those accomplishments. For the House of Representatives’ current Speaker, it needs to be a new day in the pictures he and his friends on the political reactionary spectrum conjure for those only somewhat interested members of the electorate. If it is sensationalism, so be it, goes the reactionary Republican strategy; votes are what count. And, as Speaker, he has a substantial responsibility to demonstrate a brand of leadership attractive to the new caucus members from several states who sent economic reactionaries to congress in the 2010 by-elections; somehow the receding public mood of concern over what happened post 911 needs to be re-cast as an re-election strategy for those fiscal reactionaries, kind of a bonus to them for having joined the party of reactionarism; if those new reactionary Republicans are prepared to accept the mantle of restored fear mongering McConnell style; strategist Rove is still guiding these folks too. Wurl up the winditzer of multihued reactionarism early; check the audio volume of those campaign advertisements on the airwaves, as well. And hope few notice the dearth of substance in the recension McConnell and his allies hope to advance.

    It’s probably true that both Republicans and Democrats sponsored appropriations gone astray in the ante-911 past, however: such as the spare parts scandal which one member of the lower chamber of congress had a field-day divulging to the media, CA’s representative B. Boxer. One would like to trust that the overpricing scandal she revealed in 1984 was resolved by reformed processes at the pentagon, at the behest of congress at that time: from the article linked, “In 1984, we showed them the $7,000 coffee pot and asked for reform,” she said. “The Pentagon said that was an isolated incident. So, we showed them the $400 hammer, the $600 toilet seat, the $300 no-smoking sign, the $9,000 wrench. All isolated incidents, they said.” Perusing that article from the era of Reagan’s first term, and going into his second term, as president; I wondered precisely how much a no smoking sign costs at the various parts of the $400 million facility on that caribbean island these days. And the quoted list of prices, foregoing, is in 1984 dollars not adjusted for inflation in 2011, or 2012. So I wonder whose interests are at stake in the elevated cost of the gtmo site. Perhaps it is a side issue in the approaching renewal of 2002-2008 Republican hyperbole and sensational presentation of what are real security concerns. Winding down the Iraq war is going to engender quantifiable improvement of Americans’ dispositions in the national election year, and might even improve many sorts of economic reports and strengthening of the US’ leadership in commerce of all kinds, even globally. A difficult mix of what is otherwise good news for the US, as viewed from the perspective Republican reactionaries; and McConnell has to show the reactionaries a rhetorical way thru the likelihood of those many impending improvements. People get tired of wars; and congress helps refine strategies to control security risks, as well as addressing appropriations oversight.

    Although there are also European conservative fiscal influences that have been tides for virtually a millenium-plus, the neo-reactionary Republicans in the lower chamber of the US congress already have demonstrated their disdain for impacts in Europe which are fallout from US decisions like the cliff-hanging over US debt obligations recently. That was another tightrope for Republicans to grip with all ten toes, as the European banking system is globally linked to that of the US. The art of reactionary Republicans’ strategy of threatening default at that time was to beguile the casual Republican voter with the specifics and real linkages; just cast blame upon the entire Democratic administration. But Republicans need banking industry support. I am sure the Speaker has a new way of casting a lugubrious light upon that sphere of congress’ action under his Leadership, too.

  3. PeasantParty says:


    I really enjoyed your interview on RT the other evening. You did a great service to all of us by clearly explaining the issues with NDAA.
    Of course, you always do and I still look to you to SCOOP the media in all ways, everyday. You are the real Scoop Zoom in my eyes!

    I have a few questions regarding that bill that I think you might be able to help me with:

    Are politicians exempted from that law?
    Are “Corporations/People” exempted from that law?
    Do you think the military intelligence apparatus in this law will over-ride and do away with the CIA and FBI?

  4. emptywheel says:

    @PeasantParty: One of things I was trying to do with my Jamie Dimon post was show that even the most elite in this country literally COULD be indefinitely detained. It’s all about Presidential discretion.

    This bill actually adds a small, ineffective check on the status quo: it actually requires the President to tell Congress what groups are included among the “associated forces” who can be indefinitely detained. So if Obama started rounding up Occupy members without first telling Congress he was going to do it, they might blink.

    As to corporations, the treatment of Chiquita and JP Morgan Chase makes it quite clear how they’ll be dealt with: they’ll get wrist slaps and then be turned into instruments of the intelligence community.

  5. Mary says:

    You know, living in Kenticky, the trial process for those guys has been a non-event. I’m a couple hours away from Bowling Green, but get some of the same news coverage sources and this is something no one is up in arms over. It’s a fizzle for Uncle Mitch.

    Btw, every time I send something to Paul with a favorable comment on something he’s done on surveillance or detention or the war, I also get a letter from Mitch, thanking me for expressing my concerns and assuring me that Mitch is doing everything possible to keep me safe.

  6. Mary says:

    @PJ Evans – I thought it was creepy the first time too, but then I figured that there is probably a constituents service aspect to keeping track of constituent positions. Or not. With so much illegal, immoral, stupid, irresponsible surveillance, it’s one of my lesser creep outs these days. But in general I want Mitch reading my communications the way I want a pedophile babysitting.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @Mary: It would be great if someone smart in KY would do a LTE or something pointing out how bogus McConnell’s fearmongering ended up being… ;-p

    Are you saying that Paul shares your complimentary letters with McConnell?

    And does he respond?

  8. PeasantParty says:

    @emptywheel: Thank you! That is what I was thinking.

    I also have some serious thoughts on the CIA and FBI being swept up and completely removed by the MIC! If you think about the militarization of both agencies in past decade, plus the tremendous growth in military intell ops you can’t help but think it!

  9. PeasantParty says:

    @PeasantParty: Oh, and another thing that I’ve had on my mind…

    I’m still amazed that Rove, Cheney, and a few others are still flapping their yaps. The betrayal of the CIA was a sword in the gut and I’m finding it hard to believe that has been forgiven.

  10. Mary says:

    @Emptywheel -I’ll have to see about that let. My home paper is small, but maybe I can hit up the Louisville or Lex papers.

    I guess there is some kind of sharing going on, I’m not sure to what extent. It may not be full content. I thought maybe they keep a constituent check sheet on issues that they might share with the contact info of the yeas and nays? But it might also be the full content. It was weird to get the McConnell letter ( if I get one in response to my most recent email to Paul thanking him for his stand on the war and on the detainee provisions I’ll return the favor and share it. They seems to be a standard preprint that his office sends out)

  11. rugger9 says:

    @PeasantParty: #11
    That’s because the CIA has many like-minded PNAC types willing to sell out America. Tenet was expendable in the big picture, after all the PNACs are still there, and Plame left the reservation as did Sibel Edmonds. The ones who won’t forgive aren’t in the “company” any more.

  12. orionATL says:


    there’s something about your setting the intellectually dishonest and authoritarian, civil rights abusing, muslim-entrapping doj prosecutors

    against the intellectually dishonest, authoritarian-exploiting, civil-rights-insensitive mitch mcconell – a man who, in my mind, is the very definition of a human snake –

    in order to criticize mcconnel-the-snake, that is bothersome, confounding, and unconvincing.

    neither the doj, nor the glittery-eyed snake-senator from kentucky,

    give a rat’s ass about bedrock civil rights, civilian trials, or first-ten-ammendment guarantees for american citizens.

    your example seems to me rather like using the barrack obama presidency to demonstrate the serious deficiences of the bush presidency.

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