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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs