WASHINGTON — A Republican senator is offering the White House a deal on terrorism trials.
Sen. Lindsey Graham says that if the president agrees to try alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four accused henchmen in military tribunals, he will press fellow Republicans to vote to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Graham, interviewed Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," says reversing Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to try the suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York City would be seen as an act of leadership by the public.
The White House is reviewing Holder's plan, and no new recommendation has been presented to the president. A decision is not expected for several weeks.
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Beyond Mohammed's case, Graham also said a new legal framework is needed to deal with the most dangerous detainees at Guantanamo.
"We need a legal system that gives due process to the detainee, but also understands they didn't rob a liquor store," he said.
Closing Guantanamo was a key promise that President Obama made when he took office, but it remains unfulfilled as he battles pressure from both sides of the political aisle. Most Republicans say it's a mistake to shutter the prison and hold trials in civilian courts while Obama's Democratic allies say closing Guantanamo is a vital step in remaking America's image abroad.
In a full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union says if Obama fails to back Holder, he will be extending the policies of the Bush administration. The ad shows an image of Obama on the left and in subsequent panels moving to the right the image morphs into a portrayal President George W. Bush, who set up Guantanamo for suspected terrorists.
"As president, Barack Obama must decide whether to keep his solemn promise to restore our constitution and due process, or ignore his vow and continue the Bush-Cheney policies," the ad states.