Graham Statement on Senate Passage of Tribunal Legislation
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made the following statement on legislation which passed the Senate Armed Services Committee establishing tribunals for suspected terrorists. Graham voted in support of the legislation which passed the Committee by a vote of 15-9.
"First off, let me say that I have a great deal of respect for President Bush and the job he has done leading our nation in the War on Terror. My goal in the tribunal legislation is to ensure the policies we put in place can withstand judicial scrutiny, protect American troops in future conflicts, and live up to the values our nation has adhered to for generations.
"A conviction against a terror suspect is no good if it is later overturned by the Supreme Court. We don't need to resort to bizarre legal theories to convict the terrorists. Frankly, we've done a better job of keeping the terrorists out of court than their own lawyers with all the legal challenges which have been upheld by federal courts.
"Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, the Administration ought to rely, as much as possible, on what has been tried and true. I would like to put one of these terrorists on trial in my lifetime.
On the Legislative Process:
"The House of Representatives has moved legislation establishing military tribunals and it is important the Senate act as well. While the Senate Armed Services Committee has passed a version which does not have the full backing of the White House, I will continue to discuss our approach with them. At some point in the future, the House, Senate, and President will have to come to some agreement we can all accept to move the process forward.
The Senate Legislation:
"The Senate legislation passed today allows the military trials of terrorists to begin, ensures that American troops cannot be sued in federal court by terror suspects in our custody, and establishes a legal framework for continued prosecution of the War on Terror. It also allows the CIA program, supported by the President and me, to continue protecting America.
"The CIA program is an important program and our legislation does nothing to stop or impede that program from continued operation. I disagree with any suggestion to the contrary.
"I desperately want to hold terrorists accountable for the acts they have committed against the nation on and since 9/11. They need to be brought to justice. However we must ensure we do so in a manner using policies and procedures that can withstand judicial scrutiny.
"One area of contention is the use of classified information provided to a terror suspect and what an acquittal in a tribunal would mean.
"Generals and Admirals from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have shown us the way to address the issue of classified information using procedures already in military law. Under the Senate proposal, the government does not have to give classified information to the defense. The military judge can order summarized or redacted versions of the classified information to be used at trial. However, as the military lawyers have suggested the accused must be provided the evidence the jury uses to convict. Without such a provision, the trial would fail because of the inability to confront evidence.
"There is one other point on which much confusion exists.
"Even if a terrorist is acquitted by a military tribunal, that does not mean they will be released from military prison. They remain enemy combatants. The decision to release an enemy combatant is made by the Annual Review Board (ARB), which is already established and in operation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Supreme Court and Geneva Conventions: "The Supreme Court, in a decision I found troubling, decided to apply Geneva Convention protections to the War on Terror. Their decision is binding, but they gave Congress and the Administration wide latitude on its implementation. The Convention has been strongly supported by our nation in every war since the 1940s. It is there to protect our troops and we do not need to withdraw from its terms and conditions to win the current and future wars.
"While I agree with President Bush on the vast majority of the provisions in the legislation before the Congress establishing military tribunals, we do have some differences. The 10 percent we disagree on involves significant areas that could determine whether our work product is declared to be constitutional by the Supreme Court.
"If these issues are not resolved in an appropriate manner, we could also place our troops serving abroad in unnecessary jeopardy for future wars. I stand ready, willing and able to bridge the handful of differences we have. I know our American troops, those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in the global War on Terror, are counting on us to get it right this time."