Yesterday, President Obama ordered a halt to all prosecutions of Guantanamo detainees in order to “review the military commission process.” The AP reports today that Obama is circulating a draft executive order calling for closing Guantanamo Bay within a year.
Unlike other conservatives, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has supported the goal of closing Guantanamo. However, on Fox News today, Graham whole-heartedly endorsed the “indefinite detention” of some Guantanamo detainees
GRAHAM: I do believe we can close Gitmo, but what to do with them? Repatriate some back to other countries makes sense, if you can do it safely. Some of them will be tried for war crimes. And a third group will be held indefinitely because the sensitive nature of the evidence may not subject them to the normal criminal process, but if you let them go, we’ll be letting go someone who wants to go back to the fight. … So we’ve got three lanes we’ve got to deal with: Repatriation, trials, and indefinite detention.
According to Graham, some detainees can’t be legally tried because of “sensitive evidence” holding them. In fact, as Ken Gude has explained, our criminal justice system is already equipped to hold full legal trials while protecting classified evidence and state secrets. Rather than a security concern, the real reason some detainees’ trials have been derailed is because the “evidence” against them was obtained through torture, and thus inadmissible.
Graham’s blunt language affirms his complete departure from his earlier, principled stance against the detention system set up by Donald Rumsfeld. In 2003, he joined Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in writing a letter to then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld urging him to immediately create a system “to formally treat and process the detainees as war criminals or to return them to their countries for appropriate judicial action.”
As late as last September, Graham supported at least some form of judicial process for military detainees, saying that “military commissions are the right approach to deliver justice and protect our nation in the War on Terror.” However, now Graham has apparently embraced the far-right notion that some detainees can be imprisoned forever, without legal recourse.
Ken Gude reacted to Graham’s statements: “U.S. courts have tried some of the most dangerous terrorists the world has ever known, and done so while both protecting classified information and the rights of the accused to ensure the verdict is fair, legitimate, and accurate. … Of course these prosecutions will not be easy, but the admissibility of classified evidence is not an insurmountable obstacle to trials of Guantanamo detainees.”