- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

The most pointed opposition to President Bush’s proposed legislation for trying terror suspects has come from a handful of key Republicans, but party leaders on Capitol Hill said yesterday they are confident that a compromise will be reached before the November elections.

“We can get it done,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said yesterday. “We’ve got time to do it if we get to work.”

Senate Republicans said they are confident something will be worked out in the coming weeks allowing the Bush administration to treat the detainees at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as “enemy combatants” rather than prisoners of war, who would be afforded different courtroom rights.

House leaders have scheduled a week later this month to take up the bill and they appear even more confident about giving Mr. Bush everything he requests.

“In September 2001, the president stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center and vowed that the people responsible for the crimes of 9/11 would be caught and brought to justice for their crimes,” House Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter of California said yesterday in a joint statement. “Republicans are committed to designing a system that brings these terrorists to justice while also giving the president the tools he needs to prevent terrorist plots before they happen and protect the American people.”

The central disagreement over Mr. Bush’s proposed legislation is the degree to which detainees will be afforded the same civil rights as U.S. citizens who face charges in U.S. courts.

Among the concerns held by many Democrats and a handful of Republicans is a provision in the bill that would allow prosecutors in some situations to conceal from foreign terror suspects evidence in the case against them if it is sensitive or classified.

The Bush administration argues that without this option, classified information would immediately be leaked to other terrorists. Others say that it’s a basic civil right.

“I believe the accused should see that evidence,” said Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black, judge advocate general of the Army, who testified yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee.

Those with concerns about the legislation include three key Republican senators: Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. After a meeting yesterday, the Republicans said they are “optimistic” that their concerns will be addressed in any final legislation.

Still, Republicans expect to use the much broader opposition to the bill by Democrats against them.

The conservative Center for Security Policy will begin airing a new television commercial criticizing those who might oppose the legislation.

Some in Congress think “that if we retreat our terrorist enemies will leave us alone,” says the ad that will run in Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and New York. “They say we should close Guantanamo, where captured foes are kept from waging war against us. … They seem to think we’ll be safer if we cut and run.”

With menacing music in the background, the commercial ends with an admonition: “Vote as if your life depended on it. Because it does.”

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