Graham advocates tribunals he helped revamp to try terrorism suspects

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals.

A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases.

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"The military justice system is transparent, well-staffed, subject to civilian review, and protects valuable intelligence," he said in the GOP's Saturday address. "And above all else it is built around the idea that we are a nation at war."

Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.

The South Carolina Republican said Obama's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other suspected terrorists in civilian court is indicative of "pre-9/11 mentality."

"These al-Qaeda terrorists are not common criminals," Graham said. “Their attacks resulted in the biggest loss of American life from an act of war on our homeland since the Civil War."

Graham said civilian trials would be costly and could force sensitive intelligence into public view.

Specifically, Graham cited the 1995 trial of the so-called "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel-Rahman, in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing when prosecutors used evidence that Graham said tipped off Osama bin Laden about U.S. intelligence practices.

"A conviction was obtained in that trial, but valuable intelligence was compromised," Graham said.

Democrats have pointed out that civilian trials were granted to both 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid under the Bush administration.

Graham argued that the revised military tribunal system, which he advocates for current trials, wasn't in place at the time.