Detention of Terror Suspects Blocks Defense Bill

Tuesday, 04 Oct 2011 11:59 PM


  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday that a sweeping defense bill is on hold until lawmakers can resolve a dispute with the Obama administration over provisions that would require military custody of terrorist suspects and limit the government's authority to transfer detainees.

In a letter to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the administration must have the flexibility to combat terrorism, including the use of the criminal justice system to prosecute terrorist suspects.

"Limitations on that flexibility, or on the availability of critical counterterrorism tools, would significantly threaten our national security," Reid wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

This isn't the first time Congress has tried to limit the administration on the detainee issue. Last year's defense bill barred the transfer of detainees at the naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.

The omnibus spending bill that Obama and Congress approved in April also prevented the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to the U.S., prohibited the construction or modification of facilities in the United States to house detainees and required the defense secretary to notify Congress before transferring a terror suspect to a foreign country.

Congressional Republicans and some Democrats want to keep the facility at Guantanamo open despite Obama's efforts, which have proven unsuccessful, to close the prison. Lawmakers also favor trying suspects in military commissions instead of federal courts.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the $683 billion defense bill in June, but the Senate has not acted on the legislation that would authorize spending on military personnel, weapons systems and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Congress has about 11 weeks remaining in the session.

The administration opposes a provision in the bill that would require military custody of a suspect determined to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliate or anyone involved in the planning or an attack on the United States. The administration argues that such a step would hamper efforts by the FBI or other law enforcement to elicit intelligence from terror suspects.

Reid said several senators also had concerns with the provision.

"I do not intend to bring this bill to the floor until concerns regarding the bill's detainee provisions are resolved," Reid wrote.

The Democratic leader raised the prospect of a pared-back defense bill without the divisive provisions. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and the panel's top Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said they hope to work out some compromise. But both defended their work.

"The language of the bill was very carefully designed to provide, number one a waiver for the administration and, number two to have a very narrow class of people to whom this was addressed," Levin said.

McCain said he disagreed with Reid refusing to consider the legislation "because you disagree with something that the committee agreed to. By the way, I think the vote on detention policy was 25-1."

In doubt is Congress' four-decade record of completing defense bills and sending them to the president.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Krauthammer: GOP Must Push Its Agenda After Taking Senate

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 22:07 PM

Republicans have 3-1 odds of taking over the Senate, and they need to use that power to push their agenda, conservative  . . .

Wyoming Gay Couples Get Marriage Licenses

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 22:03 PM

Wyoming has become the latest state to allow same-sex unions, bringing the wave of legalizations to a place where the 19 . . .

Alveda King: Obama Proves Skin-Color Voting Doesn't Help Blacks

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 21:13 PM

Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is at sharp odds with the Rev. Al Sharpton about which political  . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved