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Senators Agree on Detainee Rights
McCain's provision would establish written guidelines on interrogation methods, while the Graham amendment would reverse a June 2004 Supreme Court decision granting prisoners at Guantanamo Bay access to federal courts under the right of habeas corpus. The Graham amendment would also strengthen Senate oversight over Guantanamo Bay operations.
The Graham provision was tacked on to the annual defense policy bill Thursday night, on a 49 to 42 vote. McCain's amendment was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate last month.
Levin's language would grant any detainee sentenced to death or at least 10 years of prison by a military trial an automatic appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court would review guilt or innocence and could also determine the constitutionality of the entire process case by case, Graham said. Those sentenced to less than 10 years could petition the appeals court for review.
The Graham measure approved last week grants an appeal to the D.C. Circuit, but under that provision the court may examine only whether a military tribunal followed its own standards and procedures.
Support for Graham's initial amendment last week sparked a search for a compromise that could secure victory for McCain's torture language, negotiators said. Adoption of Graham's amendment persuaded Democrats to seek a deal that preserved some role for civilian courts in the military tribunal process. The insistence that the compromise be packaged with McCain's provision will give the White House a strong incentive to go along, Bingaman said.
The compromise Graham-Levin language would be inserted into the annual defense policy bill expected to be approved by the Senate today. House and Senate negotiators would then work out a compromise defense bill that the senators say must contain the Graham-Levin language and McCain's language on detainee abuse. The final measure would then go to the president.
An administration official briefed on the compromise said yesterday that so far, neither the Justice Department nor the Defense Department nor the White House has seen a complete package to support, although there are elements to back.
Neither Congress nor the administration wants a veto fight. That dynamic is pushing the drive for a deal that will satisfy both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said Cheney has done nothing on the issue that is not fully supported by the president. She pointed to a statement Bush made last week, saying that Cheney's lobbying reflected administration views.