A leading Republican senator yesterday condemned as "a bad idea" a reported U.S. plan to keep some suspected terrorists imprisoned for a lifetime even if the government lacks evidence to charge them.
The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it is unwilling to set free or turn over to U.S. or foreign courts, The Washington Post said in a report yesterday that cited intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.
Some detentions could potentially last a lifetime, the report said.
Influential senators denounced the idea as probably unconstitutional.
"It's a bad idea. So we ought to get over it and we ought to have a very careful, constitutional look at this," Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, cited earlier U.S. Supreme Court decisions. "There must be some modicum, some semblance of due process . . . if you're going to detain people, whether it's for life or whether it's for years," Levin said, also on Fox.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The State Department declined to comment, and a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke of the Air Force, had no information on the reported plan.
As part of a solution, the Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, plans to ask Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, defense officials told The Post.
The new prison, dubbed Camp 6, would allow inmates more comfort and freedom than they have now and would be designed for prisoners the government believes have no more intelligence to share.
The Post said the outcome of a review underway would also affect those expected to be captured in the course of future counterterrorism operations.
One proposal would transfer large numbers of Afghan, Saudi and Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention center into new U.S.-built prisons in their home countries, it said.