News / USA

White House Rejects Detainee Policy Passed by US Senate

U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba (file photo)
U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba (file photo)
Cindy Saine

The United States Senate has passed a massive defense spending bill that would authorize money for military personnel, weapons systems and the war in Afghanistan for the fiscal year that began in October.  The White House has threatened to veto the bill over provisions boosting the role of the military in handling detained terrorist suspects.

The U.S. Senate passed a $662 billion defense bill, which is less than President Barack Obama proposed and less than Congress gave the Pentagon the previous year, reflecting budget constraints in tough economic times.  It was not the spending amount though that prompted days of heated debate on the Senate floor, but a provision of the legislation that would require military custody of a terror suspect believed to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates and involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States.

A last minute change to the provision exempted American citizens from being subject to the provision's requirements and would allow the executive branch to use its discretion on applying the provision based on national security and would also allow the president to hold a terror suspect in civilian rather than military custody.  But the bill would deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention.

Reacting to the vote, a senior Obama administration official again said that any bill that challenges or constrains the president's critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the nation would prompt the president's senior advisers to recommend a veto.

One of President Obama's main challengers on detainees has been fellow Democrat and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan.  Levin cited a 2004 Supreme Court ruling saying that U.S. citizens can be treated as enemy combatants.

"Al-Qaida is at war with us," said Levin. "They brought that war to our shores.  This is not just a foreign war.  They brought that war to our shores on 9/11.  They are at war with us.  The Supreme Court said, and I am going to read these words again, 'There is no bar to this nation's holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.' "

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham strongly agreed.

"Here is the question for the country, 'Is it okay to hold an American citizen who is suspected of helping al-Qaida under military control?'  You better believe it is okay," said Graham. "I don't believe that helping al-Qaida is a law enforcement function.  I believe our military should be deeply involved in fighting these guys, at home and abroad."

Some lawmakers disagreed, such as Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who defended the record of civilian U.S. courts in dealing with terror suspects.

"And this notion that there is no way to keep America safe without military tribunals and commissions defies logic and defies experience," said Durbin. "Since 9/11, over 300 suspected terrorists have been successfully prosecuted in Article 3 criminal courts in America.  Yes, they have been read their Miranda rights [right to remain silent and right to a defense attorney], and yes they have been prosecuted and sent to prison."

Civil rights groups argue that the bill is an historic threat to liberty because it expands the authority of the president to order the military to imprison suspects without charge or trial.

The Obama administration argues that the military, law enforcement officials and intelligence agents need flexibility to act on a case-by-case basis in dealing with terror suspects.

The White House also opposes a different version of the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would limit President Obama's authority to transfer detainees from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba to U.S. federal prisons.  The House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled in conference, before a single version can go to the president's desk for his signature.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More