- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005


The Senate voted yesterday to bar foreign terror suspects at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from filing lawsuits in American courts to challenge their detentions.

In a 49-42 vote, senators added the provision by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, to a sweeping defense policy bill.

Under the provision, Guantanamo Bay detainees could appeal their designation as an “enemy combatant” one time, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. But they could not file writs of habeas corpus, which are used to fight unlawful detentions, in any U.S. court.

“For 200 years, ladies and gentlemen, in the law of armed conflict, no nation has given an enemy combatant, a terrorist, an al Qaeda member the ability to go into every federal court in this United States and sue the people that are fighting the war for us,” Mr. Graham told his colleagues.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, called the provision a major mistake and said it deserved closer scrutiny by lawmakers.

“It’s contrary to the way the court decisions have come down already. It is an extraordinary step for this Congress to be taking,” he said.

Five Democrats sided with 44 Republicans to insert the provision in the defense bill. Four Republicans voted against the amendment.

In another war matter, the Senate voted 82-9 to require Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte to provide the Senate and House intelligence committees with details of any clandestine facilities where the United States holds or has held terrorism suspects.

The move was a reaction to a Nov. 2 story in The Washington Post that the CIA has had secret prisons for terror detainees in eight countries, including democracies in Eastern Europe. The Bush administration has refused to confirm whether the prisons exist.

The Senate hopes to complete work next week on the overall bill. It includes provisions barring abusive treatment of foreign prisoners and standardizing interrogation techniques. Those provisions also are in the separate $445 billion military spending package the Senate passed last month.

The White House has threatened to veto any bill with the restrictions on handling detainees, and Vice President Dick Cheney has vigorously lobbied Congress to drop or modify the detainee provisions sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

The McCain and Graham provisions aren’t included in the House-passed defense bills, setting up an intraparty conflict that negotiators must resolve before sending the bills to the president for his signature.

The Senate’s approval of Mr. Graham’s amendment came just days after the Supreme Court decision on Monday to review a constitutional challenge to the Bush administration’s military trials for foreign terrorism suspects held at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.

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