Vote sets up clash on terrorism detainees

Nov. 30, 2011 at 10:46 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate, ignoring a veto threat by President Obama, may move forward on legislation to require certain terrorism suspects be held by the military.

The Senate Tuesday defeated an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have shelved the detainee provisions until a study could be conducted, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The defense bill is critical legislation that includes a range of Pentagon policy, sets troop pay and funding levels for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and commits to weapons systems and other military contracts. If the Senate approves the defense bill, it would be merged with a House-passed version that also drew a veto threat.

"The least we can do is take our time, be diligent and hear from those who will be affected by these new, significant changes in how we interrogate and prosecute terrorists," Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., the amendment's sponsor, said on the Senate floor before the bipartisan 60-38 defeat.

In a message to Congress earlier this month, the White House said, "After a decade of settled jurisprudence on detention authority, Congress must be careful not to open a whole new series of legal questions that will distract from our efforts to protect the country."

Supporters said the detainee language -- which would grant an administration greater authority to use military custody instead of civilian law enforcement and courts -- merely codifies the government's ability to detain terrorism suspects, as it has done since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Civil libertarians said the provisions would give the government far-reaching power to patrol U.S. streets and detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.

More than 200 amendments await the bill, and the Senate is expected to work through some of them this week.

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