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Republicans reject habeas corpus

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060928/ap_on_go_pr_wh/congress_terrorism;_ylt=ApNRUu7J5OgZyyb2irvZQHiyFz4D;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM- Republicans reject
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 28, 2006

      Republicans reject amendment by Specter

      By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer Thu
      Sep 28, 12:56 PM ET

      WASHINGTON - The Senate, siding with President Bush
      shortly after he personally lobbied lawmakers at the
      Capitol, rejected a move Thursday by a leading
      Republican to allow terrorism suspects to challenge
      their imprisonment in court.

      The vote paved the way for final passage of Bush's
      plan to establish "military commissions" to prosecute
      terrorism suspects in legislation that also spells out
      violations of the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that
      sets international standards for the treatment of war

      Republicans say the bill is necessary to ensure that
      terrorists can be brought to justice and that
      CIA personnel will not be charged with war crimes when
      interrogating these suspects.

      Barring any last-minute hiccups, the bill could reach
      the president's desk as early as Friday.

      Bush had gone to Capitol Hill earlier Thursday, urging
      senators to follow the House lead and approve the
      plan. "The American people need to know we're working
      together to win the war on terror," he told reporters
      as he left.

      The Senate voted 48-51 against an amendment by Sen.
      Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) that would
      have allowed terror suspects to file "habeas corpus"
      petitions in court. Specter contends the ability to
      such pleas is considered a fundamental legal right and
      is necessary to uncover abuse.

      "This is a constitutional requirement and it is
      fundamental that Congress not legislate contradiction
      to a constitutional interpretation of the Supreme
      Court," said Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary

      Three Republicans voted with Specter but others in the
      GOP caucus contended that providing terror suspects
      the right to unlimited appeals weighs down the federal
      court system.

      "It impedes the war effort, and it is irresponsible,"
      said Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

      Democrats sided with Specter.

      "The habeas corpus language in this bill is as legally
      abusive of rights guaranteed in the Constitution as
      the actions at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and secret
      prisons that were physically abusive of detainees,"
      said Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), the
      top Democrat on the Armed Services panel.

      The House on Wednesday passed a nearly identical
      measure on a 253-168, following bitter partisan debate
      in which Republicans and Democrats traded barbs on
      which political party would better protect Americans.
      After the Senate passes its bill, the House will vote
      again Friday to approve the Senate measure and send it
      to the president to sign, according to House and
      Senate leadership aides.

      Three Democrats also were being given opportunities to
      offer amendments Thursday, but all were expected to be
      rejected along party lines. Democrats have said the
      legislation would give the president too much latitude
      when deciding whether aggressive interrogations cross
      the line and violate international standards of
      prisoner treatment.

      The legislation would establish a military court
      system to prosecute terror suspects, a response to the
      Supreme Court ruling in June that Congress' blessing
      was necessary. Under the bill, a terrorist being held
      at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba can be tried by
      "military commission" so long as he is afforded
      certain rights, such as the ability to confront
      evidence given to the jury and access to defense

      Those subject to the commission trials would be any
      person "who has engaged in hostilities or who has
      purposefully and materially supported hostilities
      against the United States or its co-belligerents."
      Proponents say this definition would not apply to U.S.
      citizens but would allow the detention and prosecution
      of individuals financing terrorist networks.

      While the bill would spell out legal rights for the
      terror suspects to ensure a fair trial, it would
      eliminate other rights common in military and civilian
      courts. For example, the commission would be allowed
      to consider hearsay as evidence so long as a judge
      determines it is reliable. Hearsay is frequently
      allowed in international military tribunals, but is
      barred from being considered in civilian courts.

      The court would bar the military commission from
      considering evidence obtained by interrogation
      techniques since December 2005 that involve "cruel,
      inhuman or degrading treatment" as defined by the 5th,
      8th and 14th amendments. Coerced statements taken
      before the 2005 ban was put into effect would not be
      subjected to the same standard — language Democrats
      charge creates a loophole for abuse.

      The measure also provides extensive definitions of war
      crimes such as torture, rape and biological
      experiments, but gives the president broad authority
      to decide which other techniques U.S. interrogators
      may use legally. The provisions are intended to
      protect CIA interrogators from being prosecuted for
      war crimes.

      For nearly two weeks the White House and rebellious
      Republican senators have fought publicly over whether
      Bush's plan would give a president too much authority.
      But they struck a compromise last Thursday.

      "This bill is everything we don't believe in," said
      Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.


      The House resolution is HR 6166. The Senate bill is S


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