Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is scheduled to offer an amendment to the defense authorization bill strengthening the legal hand of the Bush Administration and future Administrations to hold enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo).
“It is imperative we have procedures in place at Gitmo that will keep terrorists off the battlefield as long as necessary to protect our nation,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “My amendment seeks to achieve that goal.”
“Without congressional authority we run a real risk a federal court will either take over or impede our efforts at Gitmo,” said Graham “We are winning in some courts and losing in others. It is now time to strengthen Gitmo so it can meet our national defense needs.”
Graham noted that by Congress acting through statute, the likelihood of keeping properly designated enemy combatants off the battlefield for an undetermined amount of time is enhanced and will strengthen Gitmo’s legal position in federal court.
“The president has established procedures to determine who is an enemy combatant and to annually review their status,” said Graham. “It’s now time for Congress to sign-off on these procedures and turn them into a statute, a move the courts will give great deference to.”
The major provisions of the Graham amendment include:
- The Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), established by the president, would become statutory law. The tribunal determines the status of whether a detainee is an unlawful enemy combatant.
- The Annual Review Board (ARB), also established by the president, would become statutory law. The ARB reviews the combatant’s status on an annual basis to determine if the individual is an enemy combatant, still holds intelligence value and/or, still presents a threat to the United States. Graham modifies current procedure by allowing an enemy combatant to have a military lawyer present when appearing before the ARB. They currently have a military representative present.
- The president is also given flexibility to update CSRT and ARB procedures by giving Congress 30 days notice.
“My goal is to legitimize the actions our nation is taking at Gitmo and keep enemy combatants off the battlefield as long as possible,” said Graham. “Congress can and needs to act to legitimize the long-term detention of enemy combatants at Gitmo. The War on Terror will go on long after this Administration and we need to have congressional buy-in into this matter.”
“By getting Congress to put some of these things into law, it will strengthen the Commander in Chief’s hand in the War on Terror,” said Graham. “We can also clear up any legal confusion that currently exists and can show the courts the Executive and Legislative branches have acted together which will tremendously strengthen the legal position of Gitmo, President Bush, and all future Commanders in Chief.”