“The Obama administration is making us less safe” by failing to treat the surviving Boston suspect as an enemy combatant, and losing critical intelligence that could establish the bombers’ ties to a larger terror network, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tells Newsmax TV.
In an exclusive interview Tuesday, Graham says President Barack Obama’s decision to use a “law enforcement model” approach to dealing with this case will stymie efforts to prevent future attacks against Americans.
“What I would suggest is that the president say, ‘Based on preliminary information there is an [early] indication they may have ties to international terrorist groups we are at war with,’” Graham says, giving security officials the ability to use military interrogation methods to obtain critical information.
Graham makes clear that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, currently in a Boston hospital and charged in the bombings, should not be tried in a military court since he has American citizenship.
But he argues that treating him first as an enemy combatant allows intelligence agencies to question him without his defense lawyer intervening.
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The information gleaned from such an interrogation would not be used at his trial, but solely for the purposes of preventing future terror attacks, Graham said.
“I am convinced the sophisticated nature of what happened in Boston, the multiple visits — at least one visit, probably more than one — to a radical part of the world, the postings of his older brother, would suggest that we look long and hard at this story being just more than two people,” Graham says.
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Graham has little doubt Tsarnaev will be convicted. He worries that U.S. intelligence gathering will be limited to a plea bargaining process where a criminal defense attorney becomes the key decision-maker.
“A first-year law student could convict him” based on the abundance of evidence the government already has, Graham said, adding, “So we’re intelligence-gathering through plea bargaining, and that is a lousy way to gather intelligence.”
Graham notes the United States has held hundreds of people as enemy combatants since the 9/11 attacks, including American citizens.
“They have been humanely treated, but we’ve gathered great intelligence because we could interview them over a long period of time without a lawyer being present,” he said, “and that’s how we put the puzzle together to find bin Laden.”
Graham points out that during the Obama administration, not one person has been named an enemy combatant, denying U.S. intelligence of valuable information.
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Obama’s statement that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead and therefore the war on terror is receding is a “false narrative,” Graham says. “Al-Qaida is on the rise, radical Islam is on the march, and they want to hit us in our own backyard.”
Citing the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, and the recent Boston attacks, Graham thinks al Qaida is “feeling their oats.”
The United States must realize it is fighting a war against radical Islam, he said.
“They hate us. We’re a Christian nation; we’re a colonial power in their minds, and they’re trying to destroy our way of life. We have the right to defend ourselves at home and abroad.”
During his Newsmax TV interview Graham made other key points:
Editor’s Note: See more of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s interview with Newsmax
- Graham says he applauds the charging of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in federal court rather than state court because it will allow for the death penalty, which he thinks is appropriate.
- “We're in a very dangerous time with Iran,” Graham says. He believes Iran is getting close to acquiring a nuclear weapon, which could happen this year. He says that if talks with Iran don't produce results by the summer, a U.S. military option must be put on the table. Graham added that Israel will not allow Iran to continue enriching uranium.
- Asked about press reports that the Obama administration may bypass Congress and order the deactivation of one-third of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Graham offered a harsh warning. “If the administration tried to unilaterally reduce our nuclear arsenal by one-third, there would be a tremendous backlash in the Congress,” Graham said.
- Graham dismissed claims that Senate efforts at immigration reform have been undermined by the Boston bombings. He says the Senate bill would make the country more secure, helping to better identify residents and visa-holders who live in the United States.
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