President Obama could inch closer to finding a way to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, if he moves terror trials out of New York and replaces them with military commissions, Sen. Lindsay Graham suggested yesterday.
And one sharp critic of closing Guantanamo said Graham could have the votes allowing the administration to shutter the military prison if Obama delivers on military tribunals.
"I believe an argument can be made that if the president said, 'I will cease to use civilian courts and use military tribunals, and I'd like to do it at X location, and it's going to cost X money' -- with his majority in the Senate, it wouldn't take many Republicans to have sufficient votes to do that," Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told The Post.
"I think that could be accomplished politically," said Sessions, of Alabama.
Graham (R-SC) told Fox News that setting up military tribunals would show "good leadership."
"I have advocated the closing of Guantanamo Bay if you can do it safely," Graham said.
"I think it would be welcome news by most Americans that Khalid Sheik Mohammed would not be tried in New York City miles away from the attack site of 9/11 [and] given the same constitutional rights as an American citizen," he added.
"It would be a zoo."
Graham made his comments after The Washington Post reported that Obama's advisers were preparing to recommend that he reverse an announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder to give terror mastermind Mohammed and four others a civilian trial in lower Manhattan.
A White House official said yesterday that any decision was weeks away and that "no decision [had] been made."
The move would be a stunning reversal for Holder -- who argued that the US criminal justice system was best fit to try Mohammed -- and infuriate civil-rights groups.
"If this stunning reversal comes to pass, President Obama will deal a death blow to his own Justice Department, not to mention American values," said American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero.
Long Island Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said, "I don't think we should make any deal about closing down Guantanamo until we know where and how we're going to take care of the [prisoners].
"I'm positive that the trial's going to come out of New York, but it's still not official," he told The Post. "But I don't know where it's going to go. I'm hoping it's a military tribunal."
Obama campaigned on closing the base in 2008, arguing that it fueled anti-American hatred, but has faced serious obstacles placing prisoners in other countries.