:Police state : Senate bars detainees from filing lawsuits


Richard Moore



Senate bars detainees from filing lawsuits 
Vote comes despite Supreme Court ruling that gave prisoners that access 
The Associated Press 
Updated: 4:50 a.m. ET Nov. 11, 2005 

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to bar foreign
terror suspects at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, from filing lawsuits in American courts to challenge
their detentions, despite a Supreme Court ruling last year
that granted such access.

In a 49-42 vote, senators added the provision by Sen.
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to a sweeping defense policy bill.

Under the provision, Guantanamo Bay detainees would be
allowed to appeal their status as an "enemy combatant" one
time, to the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
But they would not be able to file petitions known as
writs of habeas corpus, which are used to fight unlawful
detentions, in that or any other U.S. court.

"For 200 years, ladies and gentlemen, in the law of armed
conflict, no nation has given an enemy combatant, a
terrorist, an al-Qaida member the ability to go into every
federal court in this United States and sue the people
that are fighting the war for us," Graham told his

'An extraordinary step,' critics say

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said the provision was a major
mistake and deserved scrutiny. "It's contrary to the way
the court decisions have come down already. It is an
extraordinary step for this Congress to be taking," he

Democrats indicated they may try to kill or change the
provision before the Senate votes on the overall bill next
week. Five Democrats sided with 44 Republicans in voting
for the provision.

In a separate war matter, the Senate voted 82-9 to require
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to provide
the Senate and House intelligence committees with details
of any clandestine facilities where the United States
holds or has held terrorism suspects.

That was a reaction to a Washington Post story from Nov. 2
that said the CIA has had secret prisons for terror
detainees in eight countries, including democracies in
Eastern Europe. The Bush administration has refused to
confirm whether the prisons exist.

The Senate hopes to complete work next week on the overall
bill. It already includes provisions barring abusive
treatment of foreign prisoners and standardizing
interrogation techniques. Those provisions also are in the
separate $445 billion military spending bill the Senate
passed last month.

The White House has threatened to veto any bill with the
restrictions on handling detainees, saying it would limit
the president's ability to protect Americans and prevent a
terrorist attack. Vice President Dick Cheney has
vigorously lobbied Congress to drop or modify the detainee
provisions sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Rare challenge

That has set up a rare challenge of the president's
wartime authority by members of his own party. The
confrontation comes as Bush is under fire for detention
policies at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities.

It also coincides with a turbulent period in Bush's second
term. His public support has eroded to its lowest level
yet in polls, dragged down by the war, high gas prices and
the indictment of a top White House aide in the leak of a
CIA agent's identity.

The McCain and Graham provisions are not in the
House-passed defense bills.

The Senate's approval of Graham's amendment followed
Monday's Supreme Court decision to review a constitutional
challenge to the Bush administration's military trials for
suspected foreign terrorists held at the U.S. naval base
in Cuba.

Prisoner lawsuits pile up

In 2004, the Supreme Court said the 500 or so prisoners
held there could file habeas corpus petitions in U.S.
courts to fight their detentions. Many of the prisoners
were captured in Afghanistan and have been held at
Guantanamo for several years without being charged.

Since that ruling, prisoner lawsuits against the
government have piled up.

Graham sought to curb what he called "lawsuit abuse,"
arguing that prisoners of war and enemy combatants have
never before been given access to U.S. courts.

But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said it was too broad and
would effectively reverse the Supreme Court's previous
decision on the issue of detainees rights. "It is
inconsistent with what the Supreme Court did," he said.

Human-rights groups also cried foul.

"Depriving an entire branch of government of its ability
to exercise meaningful oversight is a decidedly wrong
course to take," said Elisa Massimino, the Washington
director of Human Rights First.

On Iraq, Senate Democrats offered a proposal requiring the
president to outline a timetable for a phased withdrawal
of U.S. forces, and Republicans put forth their own Iraqi
policy proposal. Votes on both are expected next week.

© 2005 The Associated Press. 

© 2005 MSNBC.com 

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9995326/ 


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