Monday, July 25, 2005

Senate Republicans Pushing Amendments (And Ignoring Bush-Cheney) Regulating Detainee Treatment

Senate Republicans planned to push ahead with legislation regulating the treatment and interrogation of terrorism suspects in U.S. custody, despite a White House veto threat.

The Bush administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, is working to kill amendments that Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) want to tack onto a bill setting Defense Department policy for next year.

McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Graham, a former military lawyer, plan to introduce their amendments this week. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., has been working with McCain and Graham on the legislation.

Senate aides told the Associated Press today that the measures have not been toned down even though White House lobbying against them intensified late last week.

Cheney met with the three Republican lawmakers just off the Senate floor for about 30 minutes Thursday evening. That followed an administration statement that President Bush's advisers would recommend a veto of the overall bill if amendments were added that "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war to answer unnecessary or duplicative inquiry or by restricting the president's ability to conduct the war effectively" -- a reference to the McCain/Graham amendments.

Senate aides estimate that nearly a dozen Republicans could be on board — perhaps the largest stand of independence by party leaders since Bush came to office in 2001.

It would also be more than enough GOP support for the amendments to pass. Democrats, who long have criticized the administration on detainee treatment, overwhelmingly favor the amendments as part of a broader legislative package.


For McCain and Graham, it's the latest step to put some space between themselves and the Bush White House -- moves that some observers have suggested can only improve their chances should either decide to make a presidential run in 2008.

The two senators, along with Warner, were among the Republican half of the "Group of 14," which in May signed a deal creating a moderate bloc, large enough to derail both Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees and any GOP attempt to employ the so-called "nuclear option" to change Senate rules through procedural maneuvers to prevent the tactic from being used. In creating the bloc, the Republicans sidestepped the Bush Administration's wishes, and over-ruled Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), another potential 2008 presidential candidate.


Talk of legislation regulating U.S. treatment of terror suspects has percolated on Capitol Hill since last year when the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq surfaced. Criticism by human-rights groups and lawmakers over the military's detainee camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reached a fever pitch this spring amid fresh allegations of abuse and torture there.

McCain's package of amendments would make interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual — and any future versions of it — the standard for treatment of all detainees in the Defense Department's custody. It also would expressly prohibit the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody no matter where they are held.

The United States also would have to register all detainees in Defense Department facilities with the Red Cross to ensure all are accounted for. The Pentagon has acknowledged holding up to 100 so-called "ghost detainees," who are not listed in regular prison logs.

McCain supports a pair of amendments Democrats are likely to sponsor prohibiting the United States from exporting terror suspects to countries that are known to torture prisoners, and requiring the United States to register with the Red Cross detainees who are held outside of Defense Department facilities.

Graham's amendment would make law the procedures the Bush administration has put in place for prosecuting cases of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

However, it also would allow detainees to have a military lawyer — not just a military representative — available when appearing before annual review boards. Like parole boards, these panels determine whether the detainee still poses a threat to the United States and, if so, should remain in custody.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. "Uniter not divider" Bush has begun to divide his own party with his radical, anti-human anti-American policies, which contribute to causing more global terrorism.
Refreshing to see some true leaders in congress standing up for America even before party affiliation to put down Doctor Death and Torture Cheney.

5:49 PM  

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