- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2010

A GOP senator on Sunday offered the White House a deal on terror trials.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said that if the president agrees to try alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four accused accomplices in military tribunals, he will press fellow Republicans to vote to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Mr. Graham, interviewed Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said that reversing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s plan to try the suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York would be seen as an act of leadership by the public.

The White House is reviewing Mr. Holder’s plan, and no new recommendation has been presented to the president. A decision is not expected for several weeks.

Beyond the Mohammed case, Mr. Graham also said a new legal framework is needed to deal with the most dangerous detainees still held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We need a legal system that gives due process to the detainee, but also understands they didn’t rob a liquor store,” he said.

Closing Guantanamo was a key promise that President Obama made when he took office, but it remains unfulfilled as he battles pressure from both sides of the political aisle. Most Republicans say it’s a mistake to shutter the prison and hold trials in U.S. civilian courts, while Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies say closing Guantanamo down is a vital step in remaking America’s image abroad.

In a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union said if Mr. Obama fails to back Mr. Holder, he will be extending the policies of the Bush administration. The ad shows an image of Mr. Obama on the left and in subsequent panels moving to the right the image morphs into a portrait of President George W. Bush, who set up Guantanamo for suspected terrorists.

“As president, Barack Obama must decide whether to keep his solemn promise to restore our Constitution and due process, or ignore his vow and continue the Bush-Cheney policies,” the ad states.

The ACLU said the U.S. criminal justice system has handled more than 300 terrorism cases successfully compared with three in military tribunals.

The White House did not plan to respond to the ACLU ad.

“He’s getting beat up badly from the left, but the ACLU theory of how to manage this war, I think, is way off base,” Mr. Graham said. “And those who want to waterboard on the right and believe that we should keep (Guantanamo) open forever and use any technique to get information, I think they’re equally off base.”

Mr. Graham said he will need help from senior military officials, including Adm. Mike Mullen, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Bush administration officials.

“I can’t do it by myself,” he said. “I’m going to need people from the Bush administration to try to close (Guantanamo), to put aside partisanship, rally around this president, stand by his side and say, ‘Let’s close Gitmo safely,’” he said.

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