Obama Probably Will Cave on KSM Trial

Jonathan Alter vented his frustration earlier today about the possibility that the Obama administration won't try accused 9/11 mastermind

The question of how to bring accused terrorists to justice is an important issue to Graham. Unlike many Republicans, he supports shipping the Guantánamo detainees to the president's proposed prison in Illinois. And he can live with civilian trials for lower-level detainees. But Graham insists on keeping open the option of military trials for the most dangerous, high-stakes suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Early in Obama's presidency Graham warned against trying to bring the trials to New York. "It will blow up in your face," Graham told the president. He said Republicans would mutiny, "and you'll lose me." Emanuel told Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to call Graham. The two men had four marathon discussions. "We talked until we were blue in the face," Graham recalls. But Holder was unmoved and announced civilian New York trials for the detainees. Graham's predictions of a massive political backlash—by Republicans and Democrats—came true.

Graham's view is worth taking note of. The administration is certainly listening to it, knowing they'll need GOP support for their plans. Sen. Susan Collins told me last week that in a classified Armed Services Committee briefing on the issue, Democrats and Republicans alike were looking to Graham for leadership. As a former military prosecutor, he's widely considered the most knowledgeable member of Congress when it comes to detainee policy. Whatever Graham articulates right now on this issue, is likely where it will end up.