The campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tonight pounced on comments Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., made in an interview today with ABC News.
This was the exchange in question.
TAPPER: Speaking of the Supreme Court, you applauded the decision that the Supreme Court made last week. The Bush administration says, no matter what people think about other programs, other policies they've initiated, there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11. And they say the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you opposed, the NSA surveillance program, Guantanamo Bay, and other programs. How do you know that they're wrong? It's not possible that they're right?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind I haven't opposed, for example, the national security surveillance program, the NSA program. What I've said that we can do it within the constraints of our civil liberties and our Constitution.
TAPPER: They disagree, though.
OBAMA: Well, but the fact that they disagree does not mean that they're right on this. What it means is, is that they have been willing to skirt basic protections that are in our Constitution, that our founders put in place.
And it is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. And there has been no evidence on their part that we can't.
And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.
And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, "Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims."
So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.
McCain campaign Foreign Policy Advisor Randy Scheunemann said in response: "Barack Obama's belief that we should treat terrorists as nothing more than common criminals demonstrates a stunning and alarming misunderstanding of the threat we face from radical Islamic extremism. Obama holds up the prosecution of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 as a model for his administration, when in fact this failed approach of treating terrorism simply as a matter of law enforcement rather than a clear and present danger to the United States contributed to the tragedy of September 11th. This is change that will take us back to the failed policies of the past and every American should find this mindset troubling."