Sen. Lindsey Graham OK With Transferring Gitmo Prisoners to U.S.--But Won't Volunteer His State

By Matt Cover | May 15, 2009 | 10:14 AM EDT

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

( - Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he is working with the Obama administration on crafting an indefinite detention policy for enemy combatants being held in Guantanamo Bay. Military prisons in the United States are the proper place for captured terrorists to be held, he said.

Graham made his comments on Capitol Hill last week after a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Bush administration legal memos that authorized enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, against some captured terrorists.
Concerning what to do with the detainees, Graham said it is “a dilemma” for the Obama administration, “and I’m working with them and they’re looking at different options. How do you hold someone [indefinitely]? We’re working through that.”
Graham has said that he views enemy combatants as a military threat. When asked by whether that means they should be held in the United States in military prisons, Graham said: “I’m okay with that, quite frankly. I’m not volunteering South Carolina. But the point is, I think the military prison is the right place because it can be defended by the military and they’re very good at this.”
He continued: “You’re talking about people who’ve been part of a terrorist organization who present a military [and] national security threat, and I think that that would be the proper way to do this.”
Graham said that ultimately, the Obama administration must find a way to balance a very real national security threat with the American tradition of justice. Even “unrepentant terrorists” deserve their day in court, he said.
“At the end of the day, it would be a huge mistake for us to adopt a legal process that would require some of these people to be let go when we know, based on competent evidence, that they’re unrepentant terrorists,” said Graham.
“It would also be a big mistake for this country to hold somebody for 20 years and never let them have their day in court,” he said. “You gotta’ do both. You’ve got to have a system that holds people that are dangerous, but everybody needs to have their day in court so it’s not an arbitrary exercise of executive power.”
Graham, a former military lawyer, cited the case of the Uighurs, Chinese Muslims captured in Afghanistan and being held at Guantanamo, as an example of how hard it is to deal with captured terrorists, even terrorists who, like the Uighurs, do not want to attack the United States.
“The Uighurs present a real dilemma, don’t they,” Graham said, “because they’re no longer enemy combatants but they also don’t have legal status here.”
Originally, the Obama administration had sought to release the Uighurs into northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., but then decided against that idea. Graham explained that the Uighurs remained Islamic extremists that could not be released into American society.
“The problem with northern Virginia is that these are still pretty radical people. Their focus is against China, not us, but they went through a terrorist training camp and they have a very extreme view of religion,” said Graham.
“Allegedly, one of these people saw a woman without sleeves on TV and broke the TV -- I don’t want them walking around northern Virginia,” said the senator.
Graham said he would continue to work with the Obama administration on finding a solution to the problem of terror detainees.
“It’s hard. All I can tell you is that the president is taking this enormously seriously and trying to balance repairing our image against future threats,” said Graham.  “I’m trying to find that middle ground. As we go forward, we really do have some hard decisions to make. When you add it all up, there’s a better way.”