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GOP senator offers Obama deal on terrorist trials

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A Republican senator is offering the White House a deal on terror trials.

South Carolina 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 Guantánamo Bay prison.

Graham, interviewed yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation," said 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.

Beyond Mohammed's case, Graham also said a new legal framework is needed to deal with the most dangerous detainees at Guantánamo.

"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 Guantánamo was a key promise that President Barack Obama made when he took office, but it remains unfulfilled as he battles pressure from both sides. Most Republicans say it's a mistake to shutter the prison and hold trials in civilian courts while Obama's Democratic allies say closing Guantánamo is a vital step in remaking America's image abroad.

In a full-page ad in yesterday'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.

"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.

The ACLU says the U.S. criminal justice system has successfully handled more than 300 terrorism cases, compared with three in military tribunals.

The White House did not plan to respond to the ACLU ad. "He's getting beat up badly from the left, but the ACLU theory of how to manage this war I think is way off base," Graham said.

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