Find viable alternative before closing Guantanamo Bay, Sen. Graham urges

Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would be "firm and fair" when interviewing Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that Congress shouldn't authorize any money to close Guantanamo Bay's prison until the nation has a new way to handle those seized because of suspected terrorist ties.

Graham spoke as the Senate is expected next week to debate whether to set aside as much as $80 million toward shuttering the controversial detainee facility in Cuba that houses about 250 inmates.

While Graham's fellow South Carolina Republican, Sen. Jim DeMint, is backing a bill that would ban any Guantanamo detainees from being moved to U.S. soil, Graham signaled he is more flexible on that point.

He noted the nation housed about 400,000 German and Japanese prisoners during World War II, and South Carolina alone had six such prisons. "We do have a history in the past of being able to hold enemy prisoners in the U.S. in a secure fashion that protects our population and protects our detainees, but we need a plan," Graham said.

Graham said he has been working with the Obama administration on such a plan, which is expected later this year. Under it, some inmates would be sent to other countries, and some would face trials here.

He estimated that about 100 other Guantanamo detainees could be held indefinitely at an isolated facility run by the military. "Some people literally will die in jail as members of al-Qaida because they're too dangerous to let go, and that's fine with me," Graham said.

He said President George W. Bush's administration erred by relying too much on executive power rather than consulting Congress and providing more judicial review. Instead, Graham said he favors a military tribunal that would determine if a detainee is an enemy combatant and whose decision could be reviewed by federal judges on a new national security court.

"What we do regarding Guantanamo Bay gives us a great opportunity to start over, to come up with a policy that will keep dangerous people off the battlefield as long as necessary (and) repair some damage to our nation's image through better transparency and more due process," he said.