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Bush, GOP rebels agree on detainee bill

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060921/ap_on_go_co/congress_terrorism Bush, GOP rebels agree on detainee bill By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 15
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2006

      Bush, GOP rebels agree on detainee bill

      By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer 15
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - The White House and rebellious Senate
      Republicans announced agreement Thursday on rules for
      the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on
      terror. President Bush urged Congress to put it into
      law before adjourning for the midterm elections.

      "I'm pleased to say that this agreement preserves the
      single most potent tool we have in protecting America
      and foiling terrorist attacks," the president said,
      shortly after administration officials and key
      lawmakers announced agreement following a week of
      high-profile intraparty disagreement.

      Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of
      Arizona, one of three GOP lawmakers who told Bush he
      couldn't have the legislation the way he initially
      asked for it, said, "The agreement that we've entered
      into gives the president the tools he needs to
      continue to fight the war on terror and bring these
      evil people to justice."

      "There's no doubt that the integrity and letter and
      spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved,"
      McCain said, referring to the international treaties
      covering the treatment of prisoners in wartime.

      The central sticking point had been a demand from
      McCain, Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) of
      Virginia and Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting
      record) of South Carolina that there be no attempt to
      redefine U.S. obligations under the Geneva

      The agreement contains key concessions by the White
      House, including dropping a provision that would have
      interpreted Geneva Convention obligations and another
      allowing a defendant to be convicted on evidence he
      never sees if it is classified. The legislation,
      however, makes clear the president has the authority
      to enforce the treaty.

      CIA Director Michael Hayden has said the agency needed
      to be confident that its interrogation program for
      high-value terror suspects is legal.

      "Much remains in the legislative process," he said in
      a written statement to the agency personnel. But "if
      this language becomes law, the Congress will have
      given us the clarity and the support that we need to
      move forward with a detention and interrogation
      program that allows us to continue to defend the
      homeland, attack al-Qaida and protect American and
      allied lives."

      Added Stephen Hadley, the president's national
      security adviser, on CIA interrogations: "The good
      news is the program will go forward."

      Rep. Duncan Hunter (news, bio, voting record),
      R-Calif., who opposed such a measure, indicated he was
      not satisfied with the piece on classified
      information: "We're going to look at it closely. And
      we have some recommendations with respect to
      classified information."

      Hadley said the bar would be "very high" and that
      classified information would not be automatically
      shared with terrorists.

      "Our view is we think it's a good approach because the
      likelihood of that occurring would be very remote,"
      Hadley said.

      Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services
      Committee, said he wouldn't consider the agreement
      sealed until Bush signed on.

      That happened within an hour, when the president
      stepped before microphones in Orlando, Fla., where he
      was campaigning for Republican candidates in the fall.

      The agreement "clears the way to do what the American
      people expect us to do — to capture terrorists, to
      detain terrorists, to question terrorists and then to
      try them," he said.

      The accord was sealed in a 90-minute session in the
      office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who had
      earlier in the day told Warner, McCain and Graham it
      was time to close the deal. The four lawmakers were
      joined by Hadley, as well as other administration
      officials, for the final session.

      If it survives scrutiny, the accord would fulfill a
      Republican political and legislative imperative —
      pre-election party unity on an issue related to the
      war on terror, and possible enactment of one of Bush's
      top remaining priorities of the year.

      The evident compromise came less than a week after
      Bush emphatically warned lawmakers at a news
      conference he would shut down the interrogation of
      terror suspects unless legislation was sent to his
      desk. "Time's running out," he said.

      The White House shifted its tone from combative to
      compromising within 48 hours, though, and officials
      began talking of a need for an agreement that all
      sides would be comfortable with.

      Whatever the outcome, the controversy has handed
      critics of the president's conduct of the war on
      terror election-year ammunition.

      Bush's former secretary of state,
      Colin Powell, dismayed the administration when he
      sided with Warner, McCain and Graham. He said Bush's
      plan, which would have formally changed the U.S. view
      of the Geneva Conventions on rules of warfare, would
      cause the world "to doubt the moral basis" of the
      fight against terror and "put our own troops at risk."

      The handling of suspects is one of two administration
      priorities relating to the war on terror.

      The other involves the president's request for
      legislation to explicitly allow wiretapping without a
      court warrant on international calls and e-mails
      between suspected terrorists in the United States and
      abroad. One official said Republicans had narrowed
      their differences with the White House over that
      issue, as well, and hoped for an agreement soon.

      Republican leaders have said they intend to adjourn
      Congress by the end of the month to give lawmakers
      time to campaign for re-election.

      The Supreme Court ruled in June that Bush's plan for
      trying terrorism suspects before military tribunals
      violated the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law.

      The court, in a 5-3 ruling, found that Congress had
      not given Bush the authority to create the special
      type of military trial and that the president did not
      provide a valid reason for the new system. The
      justices also said the proposed trials did not provide
      for minimum legal protections under international law.

      About 450 terrorism suspects, most of them captured in
      Afghanistan and none of them in the U.S., are being
      held by military authorities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
      Ten have been charged with crimes.
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