By Ted Barrett
The Senate Tuesday easily defeated an amendment that would have removed from a defense policy bill new rules for the detention and due process of suspected terrorists.
The bipartisan 61-37 vote was a defeat for the Obama administration, which opposes the proposed changes and has suggested it would veto the bill unless they are removed.
The new rules would require suspected al Qaeda terrorists – even those captured in the U.S. - to be held in military, not civilian, custody.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, said if the controversial provisions weren’t stripped from the bill they would “give the military the power to indefinitely detain accused enemy combatants – including Americans captured on U.S. soil.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, helped write the new rules with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, - the top two senators on the Armed Services Committee. Graham said the new rules would protect America because they would give the military the power to go after and detain members of al Qaeda anywhere in the world, including the U.S.
“The question for the country: Is investigating and capturing an al Qaeda member or affiliate group a law enforcement function?” Graham said. “I would argue that our military should be involved in tracking al Qaeda members down here and abroad, and the idea that if they get here all of a sudden they’re a criminal organization, not a military threat, is absurd.”