Republicans in the Senate Armed Services Committee Pass Alternative Bill on Terror Tribunals

This is just breaking on Fox News: Armed Services Committee Republicans John McCain, John Warner, Lindsay Graham, and Susan Collins have joined the Democrats in voting on an alternative bill for terror tribunals that President Bush and the White House say provides too many rights to terror suspects.

Here’s the report from Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defying President George W. Bush, a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday approved legislation setting up trials for foreign terrorism suspects that Bush says could compromise the war on terrorism.

Voting 15-9, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the bill they said would provide suspects more legal rights than Bush wanted and resisted his attempt to more narrowly define the Geneva Conventions’ standards for humane treatment of prisoners.

This bill still has to pass the Senate; however, Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins have said that they are not budging on this bill. Senator Graham is not happy with President Bush’s legislation that allows the jury to see sensitive national security measures that were used to capture the terror suspect, but doesn’t allow the suspect to see it himself. He says that this provision is in opposition to America’s history as a beacon for freedom and civil rights. I heard an interview with Senator Graham on XM last week in which, I think, he also said that he was concerned about terrorists’ convictions being overturned if they are convicted with the procedures President Bush wants.

Added: The second issue McCain & Co. has with Bush’s request is that they don’t want to clearly define the phrase “outrage upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” as it’s written in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. They are arguing that to further define the term is to pull out of the Geneva Convention altogether, which is competeley ludicrous. What’s so difficult about outlining exactly what interrogation techniques are legal and not legal for our American interrogators? The House passed its version already. Why is the Senate balking at doing something that is so simple to understand?

Commenter Heralder reminds us of one of Cox and Forkum’s political cartoon from June:


Update: Here’s the AP report:

WASHINGTON – A rebellious Senate committee defied
President Bush on Thursday and approved terror-detainee legislation he has vowed to block, deepening Republican conflict over a key issue in the middle of congressional campaigns.

Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, pushed the measure through his panel by a 15-9 vote, with Warner and three other GOP lawmakers joining Democrats. The vote set the stage for a showdown on the Senate floor as early as next week.

Earlier in the day, Bush had journeyed to the Capitol to try nailing down support for his own version of the legislation.

“I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity,” Bush said at the White House after his meeting with lawmakers.

The president’s measure would go further than the Senate package in allowing classified evidence to be withheld from defendants in terror trials, using coerced testimony and protecting U.S. interrogators against legal prosecution for using methods that violate the Geneva Conventions.

The business of protecting the American people from terrorist attacks involves taking a very tough stance against terrorists, and allowing our national security secrets to be viewed by terrorists who are being tried for conspiring to kill us en mass is simply foolhardy. These terrorists will get that information to their cohorts who will then use it to their advantage. We can’t allow our judicial process to become a weapon that can be used against us.

Update II: Thanks to Wizbang reader Peter F. for pointing me to this article by Andrew McCarthy who expresses the same concerns I have about this bill. Read all of it, but I’m supplying a portion here:

It was to be expected that Democrats would complain. They have not supported a sensible national-security initiative since President Clinton bombed Iraq and Kosovo without U.N. approval and had his Justice Department claim a right to conduct foreign-intelligence searches without court approval. It’s an election year and, in the thrall of the hard Left, Democrats are playing to type.

No, the problem here is McCain & Co. Yet again, they appear poised to risk our security in the service of a purportedly pro-military standard that won’t protect a single member of the armed forces.

The president’s Code for Military Commissions would vest jihadists — unlawful enemy combatants who scoff at the dignity of true soldiers and intentionally target civilians — with a plethora of rights: fair notice of the charges, counsel paid for by the American taxpayers they are trying to murder, the presumption of innocence (notwithstanding that they were presumed guilty on the battlefield), lavish discovery of the prosecution’s case, and more.

Nonetheless, the trial rules would allow evidence to which the accused has been denied personal access. Not denied all access, mind you; just personal access. (More on that in a moment.) This suggestion, naturally, has led to star-chamber claims by McCain, Graham, and Warner. (“It would be unacceptable, legally,” Graham blustered, “to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them.”)

Update III: Fred Barnes on Special Report just made a great point. He said the Senators have forgotten what their obligation is. Their obligation isn’t to appease international opinion; it’s to guarantee the security of America and its citizens. Senators McCain, Warner, Graham, and Collins are completely misguided on this issue.

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