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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcripts

Interview

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BLITZER: Strong words from Eric Holder.

Were you surprised, Senator Graham, to hear those?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, not really. He's probably right. You know, I never thought we would catch Saddam Hussein, but we did.

What I'm trying to do is create a system that deals with the hard cases, and the idea of reading an enemy combatant their Miranda warnings, the Christmas Day Bomber proved to us that's not the best way to go. Collect and gather intelligence, then worry about prosecution, treat the captured prisoners and enemy prisoner, not a common criminal, and the - the point about bin Laden just highlights the dilemma.

I think most Americans would object if he were read his rights, and Eric Holder is probably right. We'll never capture him alive.

But are going to capture other people and I want a system that makes sense, that lives within our values but understands they're not common criminals.

BLITZER: General David Petraeus today testified before your committee in the Senate and he said that so-called 96 Hour Rule has now all of sudden become 14 days.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: It's gone from 4 days to 14 days, maybe even longer.

GRAHAM: Right.

BLITZER: That's how long U.S. Military personnel can detain suspected insurgents or terrorists without letting them go.

I know you worked hard to get that change and you were pleased.

GRAHAM: Oh, man, and let me tell you, I don't want to, you know, violate etiquette here and give you a compliment, but CNN reporting on the 96 Hour Rule was the best in the business. And this is a good day for service members and their families and the Afghan people.

The 96 Hour Rule was a disaster. It became a catch and release program. It wasn't enough time to gather evidence and determine if the insurgent was truly dangerous.

This two-week period is a lot better for the troops on the ground. It protects the Afghan people better, and it can be longer, if necessary. So this is welcome change, and CNN's reporting I think did a really good job exposing how bad the 96 Hour Rule was.

BLITZER: Yes. Abbie Boudreau did an outstanding job -

GRAHAM: She surely did.

BLITZER: -- with that CNN investigation.

That one soldier, though, that she highlighted who got a general discharge because he - he only had four days, 96 hours, and he got to take some decisive action to try to protect his troops.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BLITZER: What should happen? Should they reopen that case?

GRAHAM: I - I hope so, but the rules are the rules. You may not like them, but in the military you have to follow them. But I'd like to look at that case anew and - and see if - we may want to take a second look at that.

Here's the good news. Because of what was said and reported about the 96 Hour Rule, it has been changed, and I want to congratulate General Petraeus of getting a caveat so our American forces don't live under this rule, but, you know, that would be a good case to look into, and I will suggest we do that.

BLITZER: Briefly, Senator, what - what do you make of this latest tension or crisis, even, between the Obama administration and the Israeli government of Prime Minister Netanyahu?

GRAHAM: It plays into the hands of those who don't want peace. It empowers those not to come to the table. It gives a reason not to come to the table, the people who are really on the - on the fence, and those who want to destroy the peace process, it gives them a talking point they didn't have.

I think, overall, it's been a mistake.

BLITZER: So what - what should - what should the president do? GRAHAM: Make sure that we understand it's more than the settlements that have to be resolved and put pressure on the Palestinians and other parties to - to be more responsive and not just pick on Israel and the settlements. It's a much bigger problem than that. And reset the debate.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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