Defense Authorization

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Oct. 18, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the Senator from Arizona and all of my colleagues working on what is a very difficult subject matter. When 25 to 1 is the outcome, that is pretty good. I like Senator Reid. This goes back to the White House. This is President Obama's team. This is not Harry Reid. This is not the Senate holding up this bill, it is the White House holding up this bill. They have an irrational view of what we need to be doing with detainees. They have lost the argument--and I tried to help--to close Guantanamo Bay. It is not going to close. We are not going to move those prisoners inside the United States. The Congress has said no. The American people have said no.

The reason they lost that argument is after working with the White House for about a year and a half to try to find a national security centric detainee policy that would assure the American people we are not going to let these people roam around the world and treat them as common criminals, they could never pull the trigger on the hard stuff. We are here because the White House cannot tell the ACLU no. There are 48 people at Guantanamo Bay being held under the law of war, who will never see a courtroom, military or civilian courtroom, and that is part of military law. You don't have to let an enemy prisoner go. Most enemy prisoners are never prosecuted. They are held at Guantanamo Bay under the law of war. An Executive order issued by the Obama administration gives them an annual review. We have been trying to work with the Obama administration to deal with every class of detainee we may run into in this war that will go well beyond my lifetime. The reason Mr. Brennan objects is because there was a decision made by the Congress to say if a detainee is captured and interrogated by the high-value interrogation team--which I like, which is an interagency combination of the CIA, FBI, military, and other law enforcement agencies to make sure we get the best intelligence possible, that we create a presumption for military custody.

The reason we are doing that is because the Obama administration has been hell bent on criminalizing this war. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, had charges against him in military commissions during the Bush administration, and he was ready to go to trial, literally ready to plead guilty. The Obama administration withdrew those charges and was going to put him in New York City, giving Khalid Shaikh Mohammed the same constitutional rights as an American citizen, then take that show on the road from Guantanamo Bay and have a trial in the heart of New York City that would cost $300 million alone in security. That blew up in their face. They don't get it. Most Americans don't see these people as some guy who stole a car or robbed a liquor store. Most Americans see detainees who were captured on the battlefield as a genuine threat to this country.

I applaud the Obama administration for taking the fight to the terrorists and going after bin Laden, for using Predator drones on the battlefield throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan. What I have fought with them over is we have no way of capturing someone and acquiring good intelligence because you have locked down the system. This detainee legislation we have before the Senate will allow a way to go


What happens if you capture someone tomorrow? Where do we put them? What jail do we have, as a nation, to put a captured terrorist in? We don't have a jail because they will not use Guantanamo Bay. They captured a terrorist and put him on a ship for 60 days. The Navy is not in the detention business. We don't build ships to make them jails. We build ships to fight wars. This aversion to using Guantanamo Bay is going to bite us as a nation.

This legislation allows us to move forward. If you capture someone, you can gather good intelligence. There is a presumption that they will be held as an enemy combatant, but there is a waiver provision. What I don't want to do is read rights to everybody we capture in the United States as part of a terrorist organization's plot. We are not fighting a crime, we are fighting a war. Under the rules of war, you can hold an enemy combatant and interrogate them as long as necessary to find out what the enemy is up to. That is what this legislation does.

To my colleagues, you have written a very balanced approach. This idea of never using Guantanamo Bay again is dangerous. The idea that the CIA cannot interrogate enemy prisoners as a policy is dangerous. By Executive order the President of the United States, President Obama, within a week of taking office, took off the table an enhanced interrogation technique under the Detainee Treatment Act that was classified, that was not waterboarding within our values, but techniques available to our intelligence community, which Senator Chambliss oversees, that would allow them over time to acquire good intelligence.

One of the reasons we killed bin Laden is because of the intelligence picture we acquired over 10 years. This President, within a week, said by Executive order the only interrogation tool available to the United States of America is the Army Field Manual, which is online. You can read it yourself.


Mr. GRAHAM. We have a bipartisan proposal that will allow us as a nation to make rational decisions about detention, and the White House is holding it up. There are provisions in this bill that affect the day-to-day lives of the men and women in our military. The White House is saying detainee policy driven by the ACLU is more important to them than a bill that would allow the CIA the authorization they need to fight this war that would provide wounded warriors assistance at a time when wounded warriors need it the most. You talk about a perverse view of things, you talk about having it wrong in terms of what is most important, allowing the detainee issue to deny the CIA the authorization they need to protect us all is dangerous. To put the needs of the men and women in uniform in terms of their health care, their pay, their ability to take care of their families secondary to detainee policies that make no sense and is driven by the far left of this country is what this debate is about.

To the White House, we are not going to change this bill.


Mr. GRAHAM. The minority leader is absolutely right. I would add to my good friend from Kentucky, it is even more. It is not just about us. What we are denying General Petraeus, the new CIA Director, is new authorization language that he needs to fight the war. What we are denying men and women in uniform is pay raises, health care benefits they desperately need because of the detention policy driven by, I think, the most liberal people in this country, and 25 out of 26 Senators blessed this package.


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