Lawmakers introduce bill requiring military interrogation of suspected terrorists

[JURIST] US lawmakers introduced a bill [text, PDF] Thursday that would require the military interrogation and trial of those taken into US custody who are suspected of links to terrorism. The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) [official websites] and would require that all people detained by US authorities, both domestically and internationally, who are suspected of engaging in hostilities against the US or its coalition partners or of providing material support for those who do, would be placed in military custody for interrogation and a final status determination made by the president, attorney general, and defense secretary. Under the bill, before a final status determination is made, the suspect cannot be Mirandized or "otherwise ... informed of any rights that the individual may or may not have to counsel or to remain silent consistent with Miranda v. Arizona." If the detainee were then determined to be an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," the bill would mandate detention until the end of the hostilities against the US by the group with which the suspect was involved or supporting. In a press release [text], McCain explained:


[The legislation] sets forth a clear, comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of enemy belligerents who are suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States. This legislation seeks to ensure that the mistakes made during the apprehension of the Christmas Day bomber, such as reading him a Miranda warning, will never happen again and put Americans’ security at risk.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized [press release] the legislation, describing it as "a direct attack on the Constitution." Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official website], who is currently working with the Obama administration to create a comprehensive system to deal with detainees that would include civilian trials, also expressed reservations [FOX News report] about the legislation.

It was reported on Friday that White House advisers are considering recommending [JURIST report] that accused 9/11 co-conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] be tried in a military court rather than through the civilian criminal justice system. Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced in November that Mohammed would be tried in a civilian court [JURIST report] in Manhattan, drawing intense criticism. Last month, Holder defended his decision [JURIST report] to charge suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the so-called Christmas Day bomber, in US federal court. Holder, who has resisted calls from high-level Republicans [AP Report] to try Abdulmutallab in front of a military tribunal, said that the civilian criminal justice system was capable of handling his trial. Abdulmutallab was indicted [JURIST report] in January on six counts for allegedly attempting to set off an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound from Amsterdam to Detroit. A plea of not guilty [JURIST report] was entered on his behalf.

 

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