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Detainee Measure to Have Fewer Restrictions

Spokesmen for John W. Warner (R-Va.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) -- the senators leading negotiations with the Bush administration -- did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new language, but others on Capitol Hill said the three had accepted it.

Under a separate provision, those held by the CIA or the U.S. military as an unlawful enemy combatant would be barred from challenging their detention or the conditions of their treatment in U.S. courts unless they were first tried, convicted and appealed their conviction.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) yesterday assailed the provision as an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus, which he said was allowable only "in time of rebellion or in time of invasion. And neither is present here."

He was joined by the committee's senior Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), who said that under the provision, legal U.S. immigrants could be held "until proven innocent, not until proven guilty."

Bruce Fein, a senior Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, testified against the provision at a Senate hearing. Kenneth W. Starr, a solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush, said in a letter to Specter that he concerned the legislation "may go too far in limiting habeas corpus relief."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) defended the provision, saying alien enemy combatants are not "entitled to rights under the United States Constitution similar to those accorded to a defendant in a criminal lawsuit."

Congressional sources said Specter is unlikely to derail the compromise legislation over those objections.

Staff writer Michael A. Fletcher and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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