Democrat Barack Obama rejected any lectures from his White House rival John McCain on fighting terrorism, in a scornful riposte to a day-long onslaught from the Republican's camp.
"Let's think about this: these are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11," Obama told reporters on his plane yesterday.
"In part because of their failed strategies, we've got (Al-Qaeda chief Osama) bin Laden still sending out audio tapes. So I don't think they have much standing to suggest that they've learned a lot of lessons from 9/11," he said.
McCain supporters had lashed out at a call by Obama for suspected extremists to be prosecuted, in light of a Supreme Court ruling last week allowing Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their detention in the courts.
McCain foreign policy aide Randy Scheunemann said militants had to be fought on the battlefield and not in the courts, and accused Obama of "a perfect manifestation of a September 10 mindset" from a day prior to the 2001 attacks.
In an interview with ABC News late Monday, Obama noted that the Islamist extremists behind the first bomb attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 were brought to civilian justice and are now behind bars.
Under the Bush administration's policies since 9/11, "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," Obama said.
The policies had "given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, 'Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims'," he said.