Lindsey Graham's Position On Guantanamo Bay Is Pretty Hard-Lined, But It Wasn't Always That Way

Though his positions on certain issues have been well-established and vary between conservative and moderate viewpoints, GOP presidential candidate and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham's position on Guantanamo Bay has dramatically changed over the years. At one point, he called out the government for its Gitmo policy. But that was a long time ago.

During a 2012 Senate meeting, Graham said closing Guantanamo Bay was not what the American people wanted because it would "bring these crazy bastards that want to kill us all to the United States." And earlier this year, Graham said he was "disturbed" by an Obama administration policy that allowed five prisoners at the Guantanamo detention center to be released as part of a prisoner exchange that brought American hostage Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl home. (The U.S. military later charged Bergdahl with desertion.) Graham was concerned the five detainees would rejoin terror organizations such as al Qaeda and said during a news conference at his office in Columbia, South Carolina, that he would not have made the exchange for anyone.

While I’m glad that Sgt. Bergdahl is home with his family, this decision, I think, has undercut the war effort. I would have not done this if I had been president even for a Medal of Honor (recipient). If I were president, they would still be in prison.
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But he hasn't always felt this way. Graham's earlier record on Guantanamo shows he had tried to find ways to allow for the release of some of the base's detainees. In 2003, he joined Sen. John McCain and signed a letter to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "to formally treat and process the detainees as war criminals or to return them to their countries."

Graham and McCain also co-wrote an op-ed on Guantanamo for The Wall Street Journal in 2009, outlining their concerns about the government's handling of the base and its prisoners. It is missing much of the more pointed language Graham has used to describe the situation in Guantanamo in more recent remarks.

In January, the president announced via executive order that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay will close within a year. The announcement was easy — but it left unanswered the hardest questions about detainee policy for the future.

But again, that was a long time ago. Last summer, Graham said President Obama could face impeachment if he tried to release more prisoners from Guantanamo without seeking approval from Congress first, The Hill reported.

It’s going to be impossible for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without a huge backlash. There will be people on our side calling for [Obama's] impeachment if he did that.

The detention center at Guantanamo Bay remains open.

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