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US Senators Predict Action to Allow Prosecution of Terror Suspects at Guantanamo


U.S. senators from both political parties say Congress is likely to give President Bush the authority he needs to prosecute terror suspects held at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Discussion of how to adjudicate the detainees follows last week's Supreme Court decision striking down military commissions established by the Bush administration for that purpose.

Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush has asserted broad executive power to conduct the war on terror as he deems necessary, including the establishment of military commissions to try terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. Last Thursday, the Supreme Court placed clear limits on wartime executive power - a decision applauded by Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed.

"The president declared, essentially, that he was operating on his own capacity as commander-in-chief," said Reed. "And, I think, the court reined him back, and I think that is appropriate."

The Supreme Court held that military commissions must adhere to established U.S. military court procedure, unless Congress grants permission for those procedures to be altered. Speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program, Senator Reed predicted Republicans and Democrats in Congress will work together, so that terror suspects are tried as the Bush administration wants.

"What it [the Supreme Court decision] insists is that the president come to the Congress - and in a deliberate fashion, and a democratic fashion, we give him the authority that he needs," he added.

That view was echoed by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on NBC's Meet the Press program.

"The Congress is very, very likely to give the president exactly what he thinks he needs to continue to fight the war on terror. And it is important for all of us to remember that we have not been attacked here at home since 9-11 [September 11, 2001]. That is not an accident. The policies we have pursued are protecting us here at home," said McConnell.

The Bush administration has long insisted that the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war do not apply to terror suspects, but that detainees will be treated humanely, nonetheless.

However, a five-justice majority in the Supreme Court ruled that military commissions, as they are currently constituted, violate a Geneva Conventions stipulation that prisoners be tried by "a regularly constituted court."

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham described the Supreme Court's invocation of the Geneva Conventions as "breathtaking."

"The question for this country is, should [whether] al-Qaida members, who do not sign up to the Geneva Convention, who show disdain for it, who butcher our troops, be given the protection of a treaty they are not part of. In my opinion, [the answer is] no," concluded Graham.

President Bush has said he would like to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. But Senator McConnell downplayed any suggestion that the Supreme Court ruling would hasten an eventual decision to dismantle the camps and transfer the detainees.

Meanwhile, political and legal analysts say the Supreme Court decision could spark challenges to other areas where the Bush administration has asserted executive wartime privilege, including a program to wiretap international telephone conversations of suspected terrorists, without a warrant.