Jul 24 2009

Senate Adopts Lieberman-Graham Amendment on Military Commissions

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut) lauded the Senate's adoption of their amendment expressing the sense of Congress that members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists captured on the battlefield should be tried by military commissions rather than in federal courts in towns and cities across America.

"If anyone believes we are not at war with Al Qaeda, they should review the excerpts of the combatant status review tribunal with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM)," said Graham. "KSM, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on America, made it clear he is at war with us. Our nation is engaged in a deadly conflict with a ruthless enemy. These are not common criminals who robbed a liquor store. They are warriors committed to their cause which is the destruction of our nation. When captured, they need to be tried as a military threat under the rules of military law. Military commissions, not federal district court, are appropriate venue for these trials."

"These are terrorists who have committed heinous acts against our citizens, our country, our allies, and all standards of human decency," Lieberman said. "This year's National Defense Authorization Act creates a robust military commission system that surpasses the standards of fundamental fairness and due process required by our own Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. We have used military commissions to try war criminals throughout our nation's history, beginning with their use by our first President, General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. We are at war today, and we should not deviate from our time-honored practice of using military commissions to prosecute violations of the laws of war."

The Senators introduced the amendment in response to a report released Monday by a joint Department of Justice and Department of Defense Detention Policy Task Force charged with developing options for handling Guantanamo detainees. The Task Force announced the administration's policy that "There is a presumption that, where feasible, referred case will be prosecuted in an Article III court, in keeping with traditional principles of federal prosecution." With passage of the Lieberman-Graham amendment, the Senate has sent a strong message that there should be no such presumption. To the contrary, the Senate's vote reflects that these terrorists are war criminals not common criminals and that they should accordingly be tried by military commission.