CNN LIVE FROM... - Transcript
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WHITFIELD: President Bush says he'll work with Congress to revise plans for trying terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina authored a bill to strip the Guantanamo detainees of their habeas corpus rights. He joins us from the Russell Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol.
And Senator Graham, good to see you.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Hello.
WHITFIELD: In a statement released earlier, you expressed that you're disappointed from today's Supreme Court ruling. But already the wheels are in motion to try to come up with another way to prosecute these detainees?
GRAHAM: Well, I'm disappointed in this regard. I thought the statute was clear in terms of retroactive application. The statute that I authored allowed military commissions to go forward in appeals to civilian courts, but the court looked at it in terms of a prospective rather than a retroactive application.
But here's what the court said that I agree with. The court said that military commissions would be proper if Congress blessed those commissions, that the president by himself could not do this, that he had to come to Congress and get the Congress to bless the military tribunal. I agree with that. I think it would be better off if the Congress and the White House work together to pass a statute that would allow these terrorists to be tried in a military court.
WHITFIELD: So you are pursuing now measures to go toward...
WHITFIELD: ... getting a military commission in place. Is it out of the realm of possibilities to try these detainees in a civilian court?
GRAHAM: I think it would be a huge mistake. We're at war and every other war we've been in, people like this have been tried in the military. The executive order passed by President Bush did not meet constitutional muster. I wouldn't want to be a juror in a civilian court involved in a terrorist trial.
It needs to be in a military venue. We need to pass the statute the court will bless. They gave us the road map to how to do this. We can do it in a way to be proud of as a nation and a model for the world. And I am going to work with my colleagues to pass a statute authorizing military tribunals for terrorists. And I think once we do that, this problem will be behind us.
WHITFIELD: Well, Senator Graham, earlier on CNN, we also got a chance to hear from one of the attorneys representing the defendant Hamdan. His name is Neal Katyal. This is what he had to say earlier.
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NEAL KATYAL, REPRESENTED SALIM AHMED HAMDAN: Mr. Hamdan is going to get the fair trial that he's wanted from the start. I mean, the reason why this case was filed is because four years ago, the president made a decision to create a trial system on his own at Guantanamo Bay, a trial system that doesn't comport with even the most basic values that we have as a nation. And today the Supreme Court said, you can't do that. You've got to go -- we're a government of laws. And those laws require a fair trial.
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WHITFIELD: So, Senator Graham, how do you see this ruling today affecting all of the 450 detainees at Guantanamo, not just Hamdan?
GRAHAM: Well, what it does, it says that you can hold an enemy combatant like Mr. Hamdan off the battlefield and that's a lawful act. The Supreme Court did not require these people to be let go. They simply said in a 5-3 decision that if you want to try them, Mr. President, you need to get Congress involved.
And I agree with the attorney. We want a fair trial. That fair trial should occur in a military venue, not a civilian court. And the Supreme Court today told the president you have the right and you have the obligation to go to Congress and work with them to pass a statute.
I believe the president will follow the Supreme Court's advice to come to Congress. The president is right to try these people in a military setting, not a civilian setting. We need to do it together, Congress and the executive branch, and I think that will happen soon.
WHITFIELD: So, Senator, the Supreme Court didn't set a timetable, but what do you believe is reasonable?
GRAHAM: What I think we should do is have two systems at Guantanamo Bay. Those who have committed war crimes should be tried in a fair arena governed by the military with due process. Those that are not war criminals, but merely enemy combatants, foot soldiers in the war on terror, should be given due process rights and every year their case should be looked at to see whether or not they remain a threat to our country and have intelligence value.
Two hundred and thirty have been released. So we have a process in place to keep people off the battlefield and let people go who are no longer a threat. We need a process in place to try the war criminal. Congress needs to act with the president and I believe we will.
WHITFIELD: All right, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Thanks so much for your time.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
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