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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript

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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
Wednesday, June 15, 2005


MATTHEWS: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is a member of both the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate. And he's opposed to shutting down that detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Senator Graham, you are out there fighting hard to defend this institution. What is all the fighting about, from your perspective, holds right now? Why are people wanting to shut it down?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think people are concerned that it has created an image problem for us throughout the world. There's some legitimacy there. People are concerned that you've had detainees for three years without any movement.

I share those concerns. But the bottom line is, you have got over 500 people. Some of them are very, very dangerous. You just can't let go. So, I want to reform it, not close it.

MATTHEWS: Why is it a good place to hold dangerous detainees?

GRAHAM: Because it is not South Carolina. It is not New York. It is not any state. Any senator who wants to close this place down, the question should be to them, would you take them in your state? It is a place under military control. It is an isolated place. It is easy to defend. And you-I think it is an ideal place.

But it is not working to its maximum efficiency. There are three goals I think we should achieve by having Guantanamo Bay, number one, a place to interrogate detainees who are enemy combatants or terrorists to get information in a humane way to protect us, two, a place to have trials, to hold them accountable for their terrorist activity, and, three, a place to show the world that the rule of law works even for terrorists.

And those three goals, I think, are good goals for the war on terror, but we're falling short.

MATTHEWS: What about a person who is simply dangerous but didn't commit a crime yet? How do we deal with them?

GRAHAM: Well, to be an enemy combatant, you have to have be found to have been part of a force, al Qaeda or some other terrorist network. So, mere membership, in my opinion, makes you subject to being tried.

Enemy combatants historically have been held for the duration. The question becomes, when is this war over? I can't tell you when it is over. I know this. You can't take people to Guantanamo Bay and keep them forever, nor should you let them go within 72 hours, like a common criminal.

We need a procedure and process that will allow us to determine who an enemy combatant is, interrogate them to make us safer in a humane way, and set up trials for the worst offenders and repatriate those who-who don't meet the category of a-of a threat. That, to me, would look good to the world. It would make us safer.

And the Congress, Chris-you're an old congressional staffer-the Congress needs to get more involved. We need to write statutes, in my opinion, dealing with the concept of enemy combatant and just not leave it to the Pentagon.
MATTHEWS: But what do you do with the guy who is accused of being the 20th hijacker? He was picked up in the field out there on the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. We know him to be the 20th hijacker. He would have been the fifth member of that crew that the plane-where the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: And may not have crashed if he had been part of the crew, the hijacking crew. It may have gone all the way to the Capitol, where you are right now, and blown up the place.

GRAHAM: Right.

MATTHEWS: So, he didn't get to do what he wanted to do. We know that. Is that-can we hold him in perpetuity, so he doesn't try it again?

GRAHAM: Number one, you interrogate him and you be aggressive.

Physical and psychological stress is part of interrogation. And that can be part of what goes on at Guantanamo, as long as it is humane and meets international norms. But physical and psychology stress are acceptable techniques, as long as they don't get out of bounds. So, we need to standardize...


MATTHEWS: But why should we ever let that guy go? Senator, why should we ever let Kahtani go?
GRAHAM: You should prosecute him. What you should do is hold him accountable.

The missing link down there is, if you have got a guy who is the 20th hijacker, that you believe was involved in planning the 9/11 events, that is intricately involved in the terrorist activity and terrorist network, they should be held accountable.

Here's the message. If you join al Qaeda or some sympathetic group like al Qaeda and we catch you, if you're not killed, you're going to be held accountable for your crimes and your terrorist activity. We should prosecute this person, hold them accountable under the rule of law to let the world know that, one, that we're a rule-of-law nation, and, two, future terrorists, that there's a downside for joining these groups.

MATTHEWS: Is there any reason, except for image, that we should shut down Guantanamo that you can think of?

GRAHAM: Absolutely not. And it is the wrong image.

We need a place to interrogate the 20th hijacker, the 21st hijacker.

We need a place to prosecute people who are involved in heinous activity. We need a place to hold them accountable. To shut this down I think would set us back in the war on terror. We've received good information from interrogating these people, but not one person has been prosecuted yet.

So, let's redo Guantanamo Bay. Let's set procedures in place that will withstand international scrutiny. Let's make sure that the-that the world knows, this is not a gulag, but it is a place where bad people go to be interrogated, to keep us safe as a nation and every answers for their crimes. And if you can't prove the case after a reasonable period of time, you have to repatriate them. That's what we need to do, in my opinion. And we should do it soon.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, United States Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. Thanks for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.


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