February 13th, 2010
12:30 PM ET
8 years ago

Graham on trying terrorism suspects: 'There is a better way'

Washington (CNN) - In Saturday's Republican weekly address, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, takes issue with the Obama administration's policies for handling terrorism suspects and makes the case for trying terrorism cases in military tribunals rather than civilian courts.

(Read the full text of Graham's remarks after the jump)

Full text of Saturday's weekly Republican address delivered by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina:

“Hello, I’m Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“The Obama administration’s decision to prosecute the mastermind of 9-11 Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four other co-conspirators in civilian court in New York City makes no sense to most Americans - including me.

“All of these cases were pending before military commission at Guantanamo Bay before the Obama administration suspended the trials and dismissed charges. That was a major mistake in the war on terror.

“These Al Qaeda terrorists are not common criminals.

“Their attacks resulted in the biggest loss of American life from an act of war on our homeland since the Civil War.

“Never before have we allowed non-citizen, enemy combatants captured on the battlefield access to our civilian courts providing them with the same constitutional rights as American citizens.

“Al Qaeda terrorists should not receive more rights than a Nazi War criminal.

“And now is not the time to go back to the pre-9/11 mentality of fighting crime instead of fighting a war.

“A civilian trial of hard-core terrorists is unnecessarily dangerous and creates more problems than it solves.

“Let me explain why.

“Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey was the presiding judge in the 1995 Blind Sheik trial involving the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center and has warned of using civilian courts in terror trials.

“These same concerns were recently echoed by the bipartisan chairman of the 9-11 Commission.

“In the 1995 trial, because of civilian court rules, the government was required to disclose the identity of all known co-conspirators to the defense.

“One of the conspirators - relatively obscure at the time - was Osama bin Laden.

“Our intelligence services later learned this list made its way back to bin Laden tipping him off about our surveillance.

“A conviction was obtained in that trial, but valuable intelligence was compromised.

“The rest is history.

“Civilian trials create confusion. Our soldiers and intelligence services are already uncertain as to what rules apply.

“Case in point - the Christmas Day bomber.

“As we all know, this was a failed attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit by a trained Al Qaeda operative.

“After being captured and fresh off the battlefield, he was read his Miranda rights within one hour of questioning and asked for a lawyer.

“Days later and only after his parents encouraged him to cooperate did he begin talking again.

“Can we really rely on the parents of future terrorists to work with the FBI?

“And is reading Miranda Rights to terrorists any way to fight a war?

“Finally, a civilian trial in New York City will be expensive. The New York City Police Commissioner, Mayor and other leaders have all expressed concern these trials could last for years and end up costing over a billion dollars.

“These trials should not take place in New York or any other civilian court. To do so, ignores the fact we are at war.

“I believe there is a better way.

“I have been a military lawyer for almost 30 years and have great confidence in our military justice system.

“With the goal of protecting our nation, military law allows us to collect valuable intelligence without reading Miranda Rights to enemy combatants. It keeps them off the battlefield, and where appropriate, prosecutes them for war crimes in a manner that adheres to our values.

“As one of the chief authors I am proud of the revised Military Commission Act of 2009 which created military tribunals for unlawful enemy combatants – a system not available in 2002 to deal with the Shoe Bomber Richard Reid.

“This law was passed after extensive consultation with the Obama administration and received overwhelming bipartisan support.

“The military justice system is transparent, well-staffed, subject to civilian review, and protects valuable intelligence. And above all else it is built around the idea that we are a nation at war.

“Khalid Sheik Mohammad and his co-conspirators should have their charges reinstated before military commissions and quickly be tried by our military.

“These trials will be conducted by the same men and women who administer justice to our own troops.

“They are competent professionals with a great understanding of their obligations under the law. It is a system of justice that allows us to move securely forward in this war while upholding our values.

“For the good of the nation, I hope the Obama administration will alter their policies.

“Military tribunals are the best way to render justice, win this war and protect our nation from a vicious enemy.

“May God bless the United States and all those who serve to defend our way of life.”

Filed under: GOP • Homeland Security • Lindsey Graham • Obama administration • Terrorism
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. valwayne

    Billions of dollars for Circus trials in NYC. Telling murdering terrorists they have the right to remain silent, and not interrogating them? "The System Worked"! The insanity must end! Holder needs to be fired. Terrorists should be handled by the military with military trials after full interrogations to get information to save American lives. The insanity needs to end!!!!

    February 13, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. mario

    Hypocrite speak with both side of his mouth

    February 13, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. Donkey Party

    Mr. Graham, watch your words, Sir. With your party's insistence on denying health-care coverage to hard-working Americans, over 45,000 Americans die needlessly and uncerimoniously each year as the result. Therefore, your Party is responsible for the biggest loss of American life, but on an annual basis. History wil be a harsh critic of you Right-wingers, God will be harsher.

    February 13, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  4. B

    Partisan Politics is their only interest, no to everything else..

    February 13, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. mike in gso

    Hello I'm Sen. Lindsey Graham,

    For the last 8 years I stood on the sidelines as the Bush administration tried 300 terrorist in civilian courts and I cheered the strength of the our justice system and the fortitude of our President. Now that I am out of political power, I will reveal myself to be no more than a partisan hack and attack the current administration for following the same rules that I cheered as little a 2 years ago.

    I believed the trying of these terrorist to be a mistake then, but lacked the anatomy to stand up for what I thought was right. Now I will undermine the country and the American people by politicizing National Security issues. At best I am a political opportunist or a complicit dolt, at worst a traitor.

    I still believe their is a better way, but just like on all issues facing America, I nor my party ,just dont know what it is.

    February 13, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. Sue

    Obama, Holder, Napolitano, etc.--–are more concerned about the rights of TERRORISTS---than they are the rights of US citizens to be safe/secure.

    Obama, Holder, Napoltinano, etc.---are more concerned about the rights of TERRORISTS--than they are the safety/security of our military men/women, CIA, allies, etc.

    The elections are only 10 months away---and the power/control/lunacy of Obama, Pelosi, Reid ---will be coming to an end.

    February 13, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    Graham is just sucking up to the Fox and teabagger crowd.

    I'm sure he's fully aware of the report, "Terrorist Trial Report Card 2001-2009," by the Center on Law and Security, New York University School of Law.

    According to the report, the Department of Justice has charged 346 defendants with terrorism/national security violations. Of those charged, the conviction rate is 88.8%.

    There are charts and tables that break it all down, including information on the grand total of terrorism indictments (in addition to those charged with terrorism/national security violations).

    So quit pandering to the obstructionist crowd, Graham – you and I both know that our judicial system is working just fine.

    February 13, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    I guess I have an idea. Put them all in SC and let them starve to death along with the American blacks that live there.

    Don't let them near the posh white country clubs tho.

    February 13, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. Jilli

    Check the facts. There have been three "suspected terrorists" tried in military tribunals. Two have been released, and the third received a 5 month sentence. (One was Bin Ladens driver.)

    There have been over 200 cases of "suspected terrorists" successfully tried in the federal court system. An example, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber is in a maximum security federal prison serving life without parole.

    Do your research folks. Trying cases in federal court is working, where the military tribunals have been an abyssmal failure. Why not stick with what's proper and what works.

    February 13, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    The republican way led to 219 terror attacks on the U.S. in 2001. In 2002, Bush and company managed to get the number down to 77 terror attacks on U.S. soil. (the big was was the July 4, 2002 shooting at L.A. International) Republicans do not have much of a track record on keeping us safe.

    February 13, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. Chris

    I'm betting CNN and all the other news associations out there have a word file saved that reads: "In Saturday's Republican weekly, (fill in the GOP politician), takes issue with the Obama administration's policies for (fill in the blank )."

    I'm also betting if Obama originally wanted the terrorists to be tried in a military tribunal, the Right Wing would be screaming and crying they should be held in civilian court.

    And if the President agrees to have the trials in a militray tribunal, the Right will call him a weak flip-flopper.

    It's hard to give credence to anything the Republicans say or do, when their only consistency is oppossing everything Obama does.

    February 13, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. jules sand-perkins

    I always thought this should be a military trial.
    After reading Senator Graham's reasoning, I am sure that it must be a military trial.

    February 13, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. Perusing-through


    The GOP is fighting to move terrorism trials from civilian to military courts. The problem is that no "patriotic and independent thinking" American is buying Republican hypocrisies any longer.

    The reason GOP has no credibility on the matter is:
    (1.) – GOP agreed with Dick Cheney during their control of congress, to try terrorist like shoe-bomber Richard Reid in civilian court,
    (2.) – GOP never expressed issues regarding civilian trials until the Democrats took over. That makes the GOP one big fat HYPOCRITE!

    February 13, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Where was Lindsey Graham when the Bush administration was trying terroists in civiian courts? He was a major supporter of that decision just like the rest of the republicans in Washington that are now taking issue with everything President Obama is trying to do to move the country forward. They are nothing more than obstructionist of the worst sort.

    February 13, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. John in Tampa

    Sen. Graham says:
    “A conviction was obtained in that [1995] trial, but valuable intelligence was compromised." One, a conviction was obtained. Two, if bin Laden did not already assume he was under surveillance, he is stupider than he has acted.

    Graham says: “After being captured and fresh off the battlefield, he was read his Miranda rights within one hour of questioning and asked for a lawyer." Excuse me, fresh off what battlefield?

    I think persons caught on American soil need to be tried by the local people mosr directly affected. Those caught not on American soil, should be tried in a central clearinghouse, for which Gitmo is as good a place as any. But there cannot be two levels of justice. The idea that military tribunals have a lower standard for evidence than civil courts do is outrageous.

    February 13, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  16. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    This was only okay when President Bush did it...the Democrats can't seem to get it through their heads..."That was then, this is NOW". It reminds me of parents telling kids "do as I say do not as I do"!

    February 13, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. Jolie

    Bush didn't use military courts.

    February 13, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. Annie, Atlanta

    President Bush never asked Congress for an official declaration of war. He only asked for use of Military force in his "war on terror," in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, military tribunals, which are only used for prisoners of real WAR would not be upheld by our Constitution, and if pursued, could be thrown out, allowing the prisons to walk away free. (All I did was Google it to find this information – it's not that hard folks.)

    Lindsey Graham knows this. This is a political ploy, and personally I've just about had it with the Republicans' political ploys, because they don't appear to care how far they go or how they endanger all of us. These games must stop!

    February 13, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. Annie, Atlanta

    Oops! That's "allowing prisoners" not prisons "to walk away free. Sorry.

    February 13, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Susie

    We are a nation at war with itself, thanks to Republicans. If Obama and the Justice Dept. had decided on a military tribunal, you or dear Rush and Sarah would have found something wrong with that. We are sick of the second guessing, sick of the name-calling, and sick to death of you using 9-11 as a bully pulpit for everything we should do for the rest of history. This is 2010. Bush made many, many mistakes in waging war on an idea..."terror." This is not a war that will ever be won, and you should admit that. There will always be people who hate America (even within America, it seems now, with the threats on the President from the right) and the only way to stem that tide is just what Obama is doing: treat captured people humanely, follow the laws of the land, and act on what we know for certain, not what we wish to be so.

    February 13, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. Independent One

    Here comes the talking points.....Okay play the fear card

    February 13, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Gary

    Another delusional Republican, your memory is as good as cousin Rudy's.
    The 2nd most ignorant leader of the most ignorant state.

    February 13, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  23. Charles McCorvy

    There is a point here that no one seems to understand, and I don't understand why veterans in particular haven't noticed. These people are CRIMINALS, not military combatants. Giving them a military trial gives them the legitimacy they seek. There are historical precedents for this in that military men (in the past they were almost always men) were given the "honorable" death of a firing squad, while common criminals were hanged, ignominiously. So yes, there IS a difference in how they receive the death sentence, and yes, they should be tried in civilian courts as common thugs (preferably in NYC nght court!).

    February 13, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  24. Dino

    The Senator makes his opinion known in a polite professional manner...nice change of tenor from a Republican. Let's hope that this type of conversation continues in our political system. Even those standing 'knee high' understand that you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. As to the subject at hand, how to treat terrorists, my mind is not made up yet but I enjoyed and will consider the Senators opinion.

    February 13, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  25. historian

    I have a problem listening to politicians from South Carolina. I keep thinking about Sanford and Foxx.

    February 13, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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