Many anticipated heated debate as Senators gathered to question Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. However, some were surprised by the terse exchange between Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The exchange happened during Tuesday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Graham had just finished presenting his questions to Judge Jackson, but quickly jumped back into the conversation when Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, began to address some of Graham’s comments.
Sparks began to fly after Jackson’s comments about her history as a public defender — which had occasionally involved defending detainees at Guantanamo Bay. She argued that in this work, she had simply been “standing up for the constitutional value of representation.”
Durbin followed up on Jackson’s comments by trying to interject his feeling that the Guantanamo Bay facility should close.
Durbin noted there were just 39 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that the cost per inmate is approximately $12-13 million annually — for a total of approximately $540 million a year.
Durban also suggested that the recidivism rate for released Guantanamo Bay prisoners was approximately 5%. He also suggested that housing detainees at a federal super-max facility in Colorado would be more cost-effective.
Graham took issue with Durban’s stats and his suggestion that the Guantanamo Bay facility should close.
“Mr. Chairman,” Graham said, “according to the Director of National Intelligence it’s 31%. Somebody is wrong here.”
He then asked the Chairman: “If we close Gitmo and move them to Colorado do you support indefinite detention?”
“I’m giving the facts,” Durbin said.
“The answer is no,” Graham insisted.
“I just want to make sure it’s clear that 31% you referred to goes back to the year 2009,” Durbin replied.
Graham, visibly upset, said, “What does it matter what it goes back to? We had them, and they got loose and they started killing people. If you are one of the people killed in 2005, does it matter to you when we released them?”
Durbin wrongly claimed that Guantanamo Bay prisoners were released by a Republican President in the past: “I suggest the president of your own party released them, and —”
Graham knew that four of the five Taliban fighters in question were released by Democratic President Barack Obama — in exchange for U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl — and are now serving in the Taliban-controlled Afghan government, all points Graham highlighted.
“I’m suggesting the system has failed miserably,” Graham said, “and,” referring back to Jackson’s comments asserted, “advocates to change the system like she was advocating would destroy our ability to protect this country.”
“We’re at war, we’re not fighting a crime,” Graham continued. “This is not some passage of time event. As long as they are dangerous, I hope they all die in jail if they’re going to go back to kill Americans. It won’t bother me one bit if 39 of them die in prison, that’s a better outcome than letting them go.”
Graham concluded: “And if it costs $500 million to keep them in jail, keep them in jail, because they’re going to go back to the fight. Look at the frickin’ Afghan government, it’s made up of former detainees at Gitmo. This whole thing by the left about this war ain’t working.”
After his unplanned and unscripted speech, Graham stood and walked out of the hearing.
Durbin appeared undisturbed and continued to cite the names of people who had defended the idea of allowing legal representation for Guantanamo detainees.
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