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GOP Seeks Advantage In Ruling On Trials
White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said the administration is reviewing how to respond to the court.
A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is still being debated internally, seemed to hint at the potential political implications in Congress. "Members of both parties will have to decide whether terrorists who cherish the killing of innocents deserve the same protections as our men and women who wear the uniform," this official said.
The House and Senate Armed Services committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for hearings as soon as Congress returns from the week-long Fourth of July break.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) yesterday outlined his plan to conduct military tribunals in a manner consistent with the court's decision.
Under the Specter bill, a three-judge panel of military lawyers would preside. Defendants would be present in court with their lawyers, who would be granted the right to gather evidence, cross-examine witnesses and review classified information after it had been reviewed by a judge. Defendants would be granted the right to appeal verdicts to a court of military appeals and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.
"I would suggest that the rhetoric be cooled at least long enough for people to read the opinion," Specter said of the Supreme Court decision. "We're going to have to dot all the i's and cross all the t's on this legislation to make sure it passes muster."
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), a key figure on detainee policy, noted that the court pointedly ruled that military tribunals had to comport with the Geneva Conventions, so any effort to simply grant Bush the power he wants would not pass the scrutiny of the court. If Republicans ignore the court's prescription, military lawyers would be quick to speak out, granting Democrats political cover, he predicted.
"That kind of excess, I think, backfires," Levin said of the House Republican broadsides. "The American public has too much common sense to put much stock in that kind of diatribe. Americans respect the Supreme Court."
But some GOP allies said they suspect that the decision will help energize a Republican base that has been angry at some Bush policies. Tom Liddy, a conservative talk show host in Phoenix, said that the decision has been a big topic on his show and that it could be another terrorism issue that works to the GOP's advantage.
Liddy noted that House Republicans pushed through a resolution Thursday, over Democratic objections, criticizing the news media for publishing classified information about a secret anti-terrorism program that monitors bank transactions.
"It will be worse for the Democrats to be seen as favoring the terrorists than favoring the New York Times," Liddy said.