The Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would have allowed terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to petition federal courts claiming that they’re being held in error.So all an American president has to do is invade a country, round up anyone he wants, and hold him forever without charge or access to the courts.
The 56-43 vote in favor of the bill fell short of the 60 votes needed under Senate rules to cut off debate, blocking the legislation.
The measure, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., would have given military detainees the right of habeas corpus — the right to challenge one’s detention in court, rooted in English common law dating from before the Magna Carta of 1215 — which serves as a check on arbitrary government power.
The Bush administration opposed giving the right to terror suspects. Most Republican senators backed the administration. Besides Specter, the other Republicans who voted with the Democrats were Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
The change in law would have applied to the roughly 340 men held at Guantanamo. Many of them have been held for more than five years without charge. The Bush administration has said that indefinite detention of enemy combatants who threaten the United States is necessary in an age of terrorism.
Congress passed a law last year that establishes combatant status review tribunals, made up of three military officials, to review such petitions. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a military lawyer who helped write the law, said the military is best able to determine who’s an unlawful enemy combatant. [Emphasis added.]
A beacon of liberty for the rest of the world.