Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)’s amendment to the defense spending bill passed the Senate late last night. The amendment passed by unanimous consent.
“The United States desperately needs effective detention and interrogation policies,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We need good intelligence and we need to keep terrorists off the battlefield. I’m confident we can do this while living up to the high standards we have always adhered to as a nation.”
The major provisions of the Graham amendment include:
The President would be required to submit to Congress the procedures for the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) and the Annual Review Board (ARB) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo). The CSRT is the tribunal that determines whether a detainee is an unlawful enemy combatant. 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.
The amendment requires the president to make two changes to current procedures. First, the Designated Civilian Official responsible for overseeing detainees in U.S. custody would require Senate confirmation. Second, the CSRT and ARB may not consider statements obtained with undue coercion when determining the status of a detainee.
The president is also given flexibility to update CSRT and ARB procedures by giving Congress 30 days notice.
“We must have procedures in place at Gitmo that will keep terrorists off the battlefield as long as necessary to protect our nation,” said Graham. “Without congressional authority we run a real risk a federal court will either take over or impede our efforts at Gitmo. We are winning in some courts and losing in others. I firmly believe the Executive branch will fair better in court now that Congress has given guidance regarding the operations at Gitmo.”
“My amendment reforms and legitimizes the current system in use at Gitmo,” said Graham. “It bolsters the case in federal court that enemy combatant status is a proper and legal term. It also strengthens the legal case that conferring enemy combatant status on terrorists is a recognized legal concept.”
Graham’s amendment, along with one introduced by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), were both approved last night by the Senate. The McCain amendment, which passed 90-9, requires interrogation procedures to be followed as outlined in the Army Field Manual and prohibits the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of anyone in military custody.
“We’re trying to create certainty from chaos,” said Graham. “The amendments give guidance to our troops to ensure they don’t get into legal trouble while detaining and interrogating terrorists. The McCain amendment will be invaluable in assisting our own troops in understanding the policies of interrogation. I firmly believe the confusion created in the past will be resolved by using the Army Field Manual as the standardized method of interrogating enemy combatants.”
“Our troops will have guidance as to what the rules are and hopefully it will provide them protection when carrying out their duties when interrogating enemy combatants,” said Graham. “We don’t want our troops to run afoul of the law inadvertently.”