Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said that he is working with the White House on legislation that would allow some alleged terrorists to be held indefinitely without trial.
The legislation, Graham told reporters Monday, is part of a deal to close Guantanamo Bay, which has stalled since Obama signed an executive order to shut it down on his first day in office.
According to a report published in Politico, Graham said, “I’ve been talking to the administration for the last couple of days. I’m encouraged that we’re going to sit down and do some of the hard things we haven’t done as a nation after Sept. 11.”
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Graham has been an outspoken opponent of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court, and has signaled that his cooperation is also contingent on having them tried in the military justice system.
On Saturday, in a weekly Republican radio address, Graham said, “the military justice system is transparent, well-staffed, subject to civilian review, and protects valuable intelligence. Above all else, it is built around the notion that we are a nation at war.”
In an interview with The New York Times published Monday, Holder said that he is reconsidering his original position, and is “flexible” with regard to changing the venue of the trial and the possibility of trying Mohammed in a military tribunal.
Senator Graham has been the leading Republican voice on national security issues and detainee treatment, as well as sponsoring the Military Commissions Act of 2009, which modified rules pertaining to evidence gathered by unlawful coercion, the definition of an “enemy combatant” and the right of defendants to examine evidence and witnesses. Critics have generally seen the act as an improvement on the old commissions system.
He is also one of the few Senate Republicans to indicate a willingness to work with the White House and Senate Democrats on legislative issues, including the promotion of renewable energy. On Tuesday, he started on the campaign trail in California to promote Carly Fiorina, a Republican challenger to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California).
Graham’s rightward shift and increasingly vocal opposition to a civilian trial may be due in part to an internecine struggle with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), who is backing a series of ultra-conservative Republican Senate candidates, including Marco Rubio in Florida and Chuck DeVore in California – who is running against Fiorina in the Republican primary.
The legislation Graham and the White House are considering would allow them to detain suspected terrorists instead of transferring them to another country or allowing them to take part in the criminal justice system.
“I think the Obama administration, after they looked at the cases at Guantanamo Bay, understands the need for a statute like that,” he said.
In return, Graham would probably back President Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and transfer any remaining detainees to a state prison in Thomson, Illinois.