Friday, December 16, 2011

National Defense Authorization Act sent to W.H.

The Senate on Thursday sent a defense policy bill to President Barack Obama, who has said he would reluctantly sign it after months of fighting over the handling of suspected terrorists, especially those who are U.S. citizens.

The vote was 86-13. The House passed the bill 283-136 on Wednesday after weeks of negotiation on provisions governing the detention of suspected terrorists under a White House veto threat. The White House lifted the veto threat just hours before the House vote as it became clear that the compromise package in the final bill had broad bipartisan support.

Likewise, House Republicans, who had sought tougher measures, did not carry out their threat to block the legislation when it became clear that a majority of senators would not accept them.

“Those who say that we have written into law a new authority to detain American citizens until the end of hostilities are wrong. Neither the Senate bill nor the conference report establishes new authority to detain American citizens – or anybody else,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich), one of the key negotiators on the issue, who at times expressed frustration with the administration and opponents of the provisions over what he called “misstatements” about what they contained.

The bill would create a legal basis for the detention of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists and their allies and require military custody for foreign terrorists who attack the United States. It also favors military trials for suspected terrorists, subject to a presidential waiver, and extends for one year the ban on moving detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.

In order to satisfy the administration and other opponents’ concerns, the final legislation states that nothing in it may be “construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” The Supreme Court has said U.S. citizens can be held by the military as enemy combatants, but the law is unclear on whether that includes those captured inside the United States and the issue is hotly disputed.




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