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Weekly remarks: Lindsey Graham on terror trials; Obama on pay-as-you-go budgeting

February 13, 2010 |  3:00 am

Capitol Hil at night

Weekly remarks by Sen. Lindsey Graham, as provided by the Republican National Committee

Hello, I’m Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The Obama administration’s decision to prosecute the mastermind of 9-11 Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four other co-conspirators in civilian court in New York City makes no sense to most Americans -- including me.

All of these cases were pending before military commission at Guantanamo Bay before the Obama administration suspended the trials and dismissed charges.  That was a major mistake in the war on terror.

These Al Qaeda terrorists are not common criminals. 

Their attacks resulted in the biggest loss of American life from an act of war on our homeland since the Civil War. 

Never before have we allowed non-citizen, enemy combatants captured on the battlefield access to our civilian courts providing them with the same constitutional rights as American citizens.

Al Qaeda terrorists should not receive more rights than a Nazi War criminal. And now is not the time to go back to the pre-9/11 mentality of fighting crime instead of fighting a war. A civilian trial of hard-core terrorists is unnecessarily dangerous and creates more problems than it solves.

Let me explain why.

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey was the presiding judge in the 1995 Blind Sheik trial involving....

...the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center and has warned of using civilian courts in terror trials.

These same concerns were recently echoed by the bipartisan chairman of the 9-11 Commission.

In the 1995 trial, because of civilian court rules, the government was required to disclose the identity of all known co-conspirators to the defense.

One of the conspirators -- relatively obscure at the time -- was Osama bin Laden. 

Our intelligence services later learned this list made its way back to bin Laden tipping him off about our surveillance. 

A conviction was obtained in that trial, but valuable intelligence was compromised. The rest is history.

Civilian trials create confusion.  Our soldiers and intelligence services are already uncertain as to what rules apply. 
Case in point -- the Christmas Day bomber. As we all know, this was a failed attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit by a trained Al Qaeda operative.

After being captured and fresh off the battlefield, he was read his Miranda rights within one hour of questioning and asked for a lawyer.  

Days later and only after his parents encouraged him to cooperate did he begin talking again. Can we really rely on the parents of future terrorists to work with the FBI? 

And is reading Miranda Rights to terrorists any way to fight a war?

Finally, a civilian trial in New York City will be expensive.  The New York City Police Commissioner, Mayor and other leaders have all expressed concern these trials could last for years and end up costing over a billion dollars. 

These trials should not take place in New York or any other civilian court. To do so, ignores the fact we are at war.

I believe there is a better way. I have been a military lawyer for almost 30 years and have great confidence in our military justice system. 

With the goal of protecting our nation, military law allows us to collect valuable intelligence without reading Miranda Rights to enemy combatants.  It keeps them off the battlefield, and where appropriate prosecutes them for war crimes in a manner that adheres to our values. 

As one of the chief authors I am proud of the revised Military Commission Act of 2009 which created military tribunals for unlawful enemy combatants – a system not available in 2002 to deal with the Shoe Bomber Richard Reid. 

This law was passed after extensive consultation with the Obama administration and received overwhelming bipartisan support.

The military justice system is transparent, well-staffed, subject to civilian review, and protects valuable intelligence.  And above all else it is built around the idea that we are a nation at war.

Khalid Sheik Mohammad and his co-conspirators should have their charges reinstated before military commissions and quickly be tried by our military. 

These trials will be conducted by the same men and women who administer justice to our own troops. 

They are competent professionals with a great understanding of their obligations under the law.  It is a system of justice that allows us to move securely forward in this war while upholding our values. 

For the good of the nation, I hope the Obama administration will alter their policies. 

Military tribunals are the best way to render justice, win this war and protect our nation from a vicious enemy. May God bless the United States and all those who serve to defend our way of life.”    ####

Democrat president Barack Obama's Whire House at dawn

Weekly Remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

All across America, people work hard to meet their responsibilities. You do your jobs, take care of your families, pay your bills. Sometimes, particularly in tough times like these, you have to make hard choices about where to spend and where to save.  That’s what being responsible means. That’s a bedrock value of our country. And that ought to be a value that our government lives up to as well.  

Yet, over the past decade, this hasn’t always not been the case. Ten years ago, we had a big budget surplus with projected surpluses far into the future. Ten years later, those surpluses are gone. In fact, when I first walked through the door, the government’s budget deficit stood at $1.3 trillion, with the budget gap over the next decade projected to be $8 trillion.  

Partly, the recession is to blame. With millions of people out of work, and millions of families facing hardship, folks are paying less in taxes while seeking more services, like unemployment benefits.  Rising health care costs are also to blame.  Each year, more and more tax dollars are devoted to Medicare and Medicaid.  

But what also made these large deficits possible was the end of a common sense rule called “pay as you go.”  It’s pretty simple.  It says to Congress, you have to pay as you go.  You can’t spend a dollar unless you cut a dollar elsewhere.  This is how a responsible family or business manages a budget.  And this is how a responsible government manages a budget, as well.  

It was this rule that helped lead to balanced budgets in the 1990s, by making clear that we could not increase entitlement spending or cut taxes simply by borrowing more money.  And it was the abandonment of this rule that allowed the previous administration and previous congresses to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and create an expensive new drug program without paying for any of it.  Now in a perfect world, Congress would not have needed a law to act responsibly, to remember that every dollar spent would come from taxpayers today – or our children tomorrow.  

But this isn’t a perfect world. This is Washington.  And while in theory there is bipartisan agreement on moving on balanced budgets, in practice, this responsibility for the future is often overwhelmed by the politics of the moment.  It falls prey to the pressure of special interests, to the pull of local concerns, and to a reality familiar to every single American – the fact that it is a lot easier to spend a dollar than save one.  

That is why this rule is necessary.  And that is why I am pleased that Congress fulfilled my request to restore it.  Last night, I signed the “pay as you go” rule into law.  Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.

But that’s not all we must do. Even as we make critical investments to create jobs today and lay a foundation for growth tomorrow – by cutting taxes for small businesses, investing in education, promoting clean energy, and modernizing our roads and railways – we have to continue to go through the budget line by line, looking for ways to save.  We have to cut where we can, to afford what we need.  

This year, I’ve proposed another $20 billion in budget cuts. And I’ve also called for a freeze in government spending for three years.  It won’t affect benefits through Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.  And it will not affect national security – including benefits for veterans.  But it will affect the rest of the budget.  

Finally, I’ve proposed a bipartisan Fiscal Commission to provide recommendations for long-term deficit reduction. Because in the end, solving our fiscal challenge – so many years in the making – will take both parties coming together, putting politics aside, and making some hard choices about what we need to spend, and what we don’t.  It will not happen any other way.  Unfortunately this proposal – which received the support of a bipartisan majority in the Senate – was recently blocked.  So, I will be creating this commission by executive order.  

After a decade of profligacy, the American people are tired of politicians who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to fiscal responsibility.  It’s easy to get up in front of the cameras and rant against exploding deficits.  What’s hard is actually getting deficits under control.  But that’s what we must do.  Like families across the country, we have to take responsibility for every dollar we spend.  And with the return of “pay as you go,” as well as other steps we’ve begun to take, that is exactly what we are doing. Thanks.    ####

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Photos: Associated Press (top two); Ron Edmonds / Associated Press.