Graham: Petraeus, Mullen needed on effort to close Gitmo, get tribunals

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said he would need the military’s support to get Republicans in Congress to agree to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison, as a sort of quid pro quo for the White House ensuring military trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“I can’t do it by myself but I think if we could get Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the co-conspirators of 9/11 back in the military commission, it would go down well with the public, but I’m going to need General [David] Petraeus, Admiral [Mike] Mullen, people not in public office,” said Graham on CBS’ “Face the Nation."

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Graham said he has been in talks with President Barack Obama and his administration as well as Republicans and “anybody that will listen” to try to reach a political, legal and military solution to opening a new detaineee center in the U.S. and closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, which generated a good deal of criticism under President George W. Bush amid allegations of torture from civil liberty groups.

“I’m going to need people from the Bush administration to try to close Gitmo, to put aside partisanship, rally around this president, stand by his side and say, ‘Let’s close Gitmo safely,’” Graham said. “With that kind of help that will reassure Americans that we’re making a good logical decision we can do the things we need to do.

“We will never win this war until we understand the effect that Guantanamo Bay has had on the overall war effort and we’ll never get the support of the American people if we can’t prove to them that these folks that we’re dealing with are not common criminals, we’re going to keep you safe from them.”

The White House has eased off its initial push to hold criminal trials in New York City for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- the self-proclaimed “mastermind” of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- and five of his alleged co-conspirators after it was met with a vast political and public outcry.


The criticism has been launched from both Republicans and Democrats at Attorney General Eric Holder's move to opt out of military trials for the high-value detainees. The White House, however, has made no recent moves to indicate that it’s willing to reconsider the military commissions.

But Graham on Sunday hinted at a quid pro quo agreement that he said lawmakers may be able to reach if the Obama administration is willing to concede to nix its plan to try the detainees in criminal court.

“Where we’re at now is, can this administration reverse course on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which I think would be an act of leadership well-received by the public,” Graham said. 

“We’re at war. I don’t believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed robbed a liquor store. He’s the mastermind of 9/11. We’ve used military commissions before, I’m a military voyeur [and] I have a lot of faith in the military legal system. I’m willing to give robust due process, there’s a place for civilian court, but I will stand by my president to make rational detainee policy.”