Sens. Paul, McCain clash over terrorist detainee amendment

Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) battled on the Senate floor Tuesday over a proposed amendment to the pending defense authorization bill that could allow American citizens who are suspected of terrorism to be denied a civilian trial. 

Paul argued the amendment, which is cosponsored by McCain, "puts every single American citizen at risk" and suggested that if the amendment passes, "the terrorists have won."

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“Should we err today and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism, well then the terrorists have won," Paul argued, "[D]etaining American citizens without a court trial is not American."

McCain, however, who has spent hours of floor time in the last weeks promoting his amendment, hurried to the floor to defend it against Paul's onslaught.

"Facts are stubborn things," McCain repeated from the floor several times. "If the senator from Kentucky wants to have a situation prevail where people who are released go back in to the fight to kill Americans, he is entitled to his opinion.”

The amendment, offered by McCain, who is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, would technically allow the executive branch discretion on whether a terrorism suspect ought to be tried in civilian courts or the military tribunal system. 

Paul fired back that his opposition to the amendment did not meant that he believed prisoners of war sitting in Guantánamo Bay ought to be released. 

“I don't think it necessarily follows I am arguing of the release of prisoners,” Paul said.  “I am simply arguing that particularly American citizens should not be sent to a foreign prison without due process.” 

But McCain ended the conversation by suggesting the junior senator from Kentucky did not understand the gravity of the danger the U.S. faces from terrorism. 

"An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat," said McCain. " We need to take every stop necessary to prevent that from happening, that’s for the safety and security of the men and women who are out there risking their lives ... in our armed services.”


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