In a blog entry at Mother Jones, Adam Serwer says that Thursday’s Senate vote against a Republican-backed amendment that would have completely banned federal criminal trials for terrorism suspects believed to be associated with al-Qaida is the latest blow to a recent bipartisan compromise.
The agreement reached by the Senate Services Committee would have made military detention the default option for terrorism suspects, and trials an option with the approval of the Secretary of Defense.
The 52-47 vote on New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s amendment was largely along party lines. The Senate GOP’s libertarianish contingent, represented by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voted against the proposal, while Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted with the GOP. The vote is the latest blow to the problematic bipartisan “compromise” on domestic military detention reached earlier by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
That compromise measure would have made military detention the default option for terrorism suspects believed to be part of al-Qaeda but would have left open the option for federal trials as long as the Secretary of Defense gave explicit approval. As I wrote last week, the compromise detention provision — a rule that even former Bush administration officials criticized for limiting the president’s options for dealing with terrorism suspects — would make it far less likely that someone like convicted underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab would be tried in federal court. (The now-defeated Ayotte amendment, of course, would have banned such trials outright.) Early this month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), at the Obama administration’s request, held up the entire defense authorization bill over the detention provisions.
Read Adam Serwer’s entire blog entry at Mother Jones.