Defense Bill At Standstill Over Detainee Language

By Andrea Salazar

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are at odds over a provision in the 2012 Defense Authorization bill that would place suspected terrorists under military instead of civilian custody.

The bill has divided Democrats in the Senate with most Armed Services Committee Democrats in support, but with opposition from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

In fact, in a joint statement earlier this month, Leahy and Feintein said the bill “will only harm the efforts of intelligence and law enforcement officials to bring to justice those who would harm Americans here and abroad.”

But, according to Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who wrote an editorial in the Washington Post Sunday, there are exceptions to the provision.

“The bill does allow the administration, through a waiver, to hold these al-Qaeda detainees in civilian custody if it determines that would best serve national security,” the pair wrote. “Moreover, the administration has broad authority to decide who is covered by this provision and how and when such a decision is made.”

The Senate will continue debate on the bill Monday and is expected to vote on S.1867 some time this week.

Originally for Talk Radio News Service.

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