NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006--Continued
AMENDMENT NO. 2524 TO AMENDMENT NO. 2515
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I send an amendment to the desk.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report.
The legislative clerk read as follows:
The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. GRAHAM], for himself, Mr. Levin, and Mr. Kyl, proposes an amendment numbered 2524 to amendment No. 2515.
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To improve the amendment)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, at this time I would like to, in conjunction with my colleague Senator Levin, lay down this amendment, give a brief explanation of what it is designed to do, and I think we will vote on it tomorrow after we vote on Senator Bingaman's amendment.
No. 1, Senator Levin and his staff have been working on this, along with Senator Kyl and other Senators, for the last couple of days. I do not know how to say it other than it has been a lot of fun. It has been tough at times, but I think we have come out with a product that the Senate can be proud of, and hopefully the country can be proud of when it comes to how to treat detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Here is what we are trying to do. With my amendment, which we voted on last week, the concern I had was we were about to criminalize the war because of the Rasul case. Section 2241 of the habeas statute had been interpreted not to prohibit foreign alien enemy terror suspects from seeking habeas petitions in Federal court about their confinement and detainment as enemy combatants. The Rasul case was the result of the Supreme Court rejecting the Government's argument that Guantanamo Bay was outside the jurisdiction of the Federal court. They ruled that Guantanamo Bay was constructively within the jurisdiction of the Federal court, and in that opinion basically challenged the Congress.
Now that we have decided that, since there are no due process rights in place at the time, we are going to provide habeas petitions to these detainees until Congress comes in and says otherwise.
My amendment was, Congress being on record that the 2241 habeas statute has been used to provide habeas corpus rights by Congress to American citizens, that we do not intend for an enemy combatant or foreign national--someone captured in conflict against the United States--to have habeas rights before our Federal courts to complain about their confinement and their detention. In other words, we are not going to allow enemy prisoners of war the right to go into civilian court and start challenging their detention. The military commissions are operating at Guantanamo Bay with a different purpose. They are going to try people who are charged with violations of the law. Right now there are about 10 or 15 cases. There are almost 500 people who are being detained as enemy combatants. Last week, when Senator Levin was arguing with me about my amendment, I think he made some very good points. By working with him and others, Senator Kyl and others, we have addressed some of the weaknesses in my original amendment. Senator Bingaman will have another amendment, and I think we deal with some of his concerns, too. I do see this as a win-win.
What we are trying to do, instead of changing what has been the rule of law for 200 years in terms of enemy prisoner rights, is create a process that not only mirrors the Geneva Convention but goes well beyond the Geneva Convention.
An enemy combatant is a legal term of art. It applies to those people involved in hostilities against the United States but are not part of a Geneva Convention-recognized Army. The Geneva Convention uses the term ``irregular combatant.'' We have case law in the United States talking about enemy combatant. It deals with German saboteurs; those people who commit hostilities are engaged in acts of war but shed the cloak of being part of a uniformed force. So the term ``enemy combatant'' has been well recognized in our law.
What we do with an enemy combatant, once a person has been determined to be an enemy combatant, we can detain them similar to a prisoner of war. The Geneva Convention says if there is a question about whether a person's status is rightfully conferred whether you are a prisoner of war, enemy combatant, irregular combatant, or a civilian who has done nothing wrong, the Geneva Convention requires the host country to have a competent tribunal set up to determine status.
Since August of 2004, at Guantanamo, the Combatant Status Review Tribunal system has been in place. In my opinion, it is Geneva Convention article 5 tribunals on steroids. It gives a right to confront. It gives adversarial process to the suspected enemy combatant. It also allows a yearly review of an enemy combatant status. What they are looking at, at Guantanamo Bay, is whether a person was engaged in hostile acts against the United States in a regular fashion, whether the person has intelligence value to the United States or poses a threat. If one or two of those three conditions are met, they can be detained at Guantanamo Bay, and every year there is a reevaluation.
We have had some people caught up in the net, and we found later probably did not have all three requirements and they have been let go. We have also had about a dozen people caught up in the net in the war on terror who we thought were no longer a threat to the United States. We released them and a dozen at least have gone back to fighting. Some have been killed. Some have been captured yet again.
The process we use is important, but no process is perfect. We are trying to come up with a process the country can be proud of that applies the law of armed conflict standard and does not turn the war on terror into a crime. Right now every person sent to Guantanamo Bay will be offered a Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing, which is well beyond what the Geneva Convention requires, to determine their status.
In addition to the yearly review, working with Senator Levin, Senator Kyl, and others, we have come up with a right of every enemy combatant to go to Federal court. Instead of having unlimited habeas corpus opportunities under the Constitution, we give every enemy combatant, all 500, a chance to go to Federal court, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. On top of everything else we are doing, they can challenge their status determination in a Federal court. The Federal court will look at the process involved in their individual case to see if it complied with the CSRT standards in terms of procedure and the standards that were to be used to determine whether a person was properly detained--the evidentiary standards, all other standards.
This will allow a Federal court oversight of any combatant status. It will be a one-time deal. It will not be an opportunity for the enemy prisoner to sue us about everything they can think of.
Now, that to me is unprecedented. That is well beyond what the Geneva Convention requires or envisions but is something we ought to do and we can be proud of because it is a Federal court oversight of a military action in a way that doesn't erode the military's ability to conduct a war. We can go to other people in the world and say, Our courts are now involved in looking at what we do. We can also say that Congress is finally involved because in addition to the rights I have described, under our amendment, the person who determines whether an enemy combatant is retained or released will be confirmed by the Senate. That will give the Senate a connection to what is going on in Guantanamo Bay.
If you change the CSRT regulations in any way, you have to send those changes to the Congress. That way we are involved. And we have a statement in our bill to make sure you do not use statements that were a result of undue coercion to determine if you are an enemy combatant.
So now we have Congress involved in an oversight function. We have the courts involved in oversight function. We have a due process right well beyond the Geneva Convention requirements. That is something we should be proud of.
Military commissions. There are 10 or 20 people potentially facing a military commission trial for what are violations of law of armed law conflict. The flaw in my amendment is it did not have a right of appeal from a military commission verdict to a Federal court. In World War II, the enemy saboteurs I described before were all tried by military commissions that President Roosevelt created by Executive order. Four of the six were sentenced to death. The Supreme Court reviewed the military commission process in the Quirin case and found that military commissions were lawful if the person being tried was truly an enemy combatant. So there is a historical precedent in our country for the Federal courts, the Supreme Court, to look at military commission trials to make sure they are lawfully constituted.
What we have done, working with Senators Levin, Kyl, and others, we have created that same type appeal process for all military commission decisions. Under the amendment that we have come up with, any case resulting in a capital punishment finding--any person who is given the death penalty by the military commission--has an automatic direct right of appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the court will determine if they were tried in a court up to the military commission standards and procedures and whether the military commission was constitutional.
Anyone who receives a sentence of 10 years or more will also have an automatic right to appeal the same court. If you receive a sentence less than 10 years, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will determine whether they want to hear your case based on a petition for certiorari or something akin to it.
That, in essence, is what we are trying to do. In both instances, the CSRT procedures and the military commission procedures will be reviewed by Federal courts and the court will have the ability to determine whether they are constitutional and will have an ability in an individual case to determine whether the enemy combatant or the person tried under the military commission procedures will be reviewed by Federal courts to decide whether they are constitutional according to the rules and procedures that have been set up.
I defer to my friend and colleague, Senator Levin.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, my hope is, as Senator Levin indicated, we are all doing this because we believe Congress has a role in this war. The executive branch has the job to lay the battle plans in place and to go after the enemy and be the Commander in Chief. But the Congress regulates captives of land and sea. The Congress is involved in issues about the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of enemy combatants and those who are trying to do harm to the country.
My goal over the last week was to do two things: get the Congress involved and for us to start thinking, what do we want, as a nation, to happen in this war now and down the road? What do we want to happen to the Sheik Mohammeds and people such as he? Do we want them to be common criminals? No. We want them to be people considered under the law of armed conflict.
My amendment last week was a direct result of what I think was a growing problem for our country. Section 2241 habeas rights were being exercised by noncitizen, foreign terrorist suspects to the point they were flooding our courts. They were bringing lawsuits.
I will give you an example. One Canadian detainee, who threw a grenade that killed an Army medic in a firefight and who comes from a family with longstanding al-Qaida ties, moved for a preliminary injunction forbidding the interrogation of him or engaging in ``cruel, inhuman, or degrading'' treatment of him.
In other words, he wanted the judge to come in and stop his interrogation before it started and to sit there basically and supervise it.
Another al-Qaida detainee complained about basic security procedures, the speed of mail delivery and medical treatment. He was seeking an order that he be transferred to the ``least onerous conditions'' at Gitmo and asking the court to order that Gitmo allow him to keep any books and reading materials sent to him and to ``report to the Court'' on ``his opportunities for exercise, communication, recreation, worship, etc.''
As I said last week, we never allowed enemy prisoners to go into civilian courts and ask judges to come over and take over the military prison in a time of war.
The Nazis did not get that right in World War II. We had plenty of Nazi prisoners housed in military prisoners all over the United States. They were not able to go to Federal court and complain about the books and the DVDs--they didn't have DVDs then--whatever they were asking for.
There is an ``emergency'' motion seeking a court order requiring Gitmo to set aside its normal security policies and show detainees DVDs that are purported to be family videos.
There is another lawsuit wanting the lawyer to have Internet access at Guantanamo Bay. That is what I objected to. This is not the law of armed conflict being applied. This is giving an enemy prisoner a right that no enemy prisoner has ever enjoyed before in the law of armed conflict. It was creating litigation against our troops.
There was one medical malpractice claim. There are over 40 cases suing for monetary damages. Can you imagine, after 9/11, if the Senate were asked the question, Do you want an al-Qaida suspect who is captured to be able to go into Federal court, in unlimited fashion, and bring lawsuits against our own troops for their behavior? The answer is no.
But Senator Levin was right. The military commission, part of it is written in a way without a direct appeal to Federal courts. There is historical precedent for doing it in-house, but there is a Supreme Court review precedent. So I am willing to take that part of the amendment that was not really the focus of the lawsuit abuse and come up with a compromise the country should be proud of.
Now, as to Senator Bingaman's attempt to strike my language, I will vote against Senator Bingaman's amendment, and I will urge all those who voted for me last time to stand with me. Senator Bingaman is trying to create a right to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for all enemy combatants to bring habeas petitions similar to an American citizen, not what we have done in our amendment but a true habeas petition under section 2241.
The question is, Does the Congress want al-Qaida members to have habeas rights similar to American citizens? I say no. Senator Bingaman allows that right to still exist. He addressed some of the concerns I raised. He says the habeas petition cannot consider claims based on living conditions. Because I have described how outrageous these claims are--about the exercise regime, the reading materials--most Americans would be highly offended to know that terrorists are suing us in our own courts about what they read.
He has two exceptions, however. They can still bring habeas lawsuits similar to an American citizen, ``whether such status determination was supported by sufficient evidence and reached in accordance with due process of law, provided that statements obtained through undue coercion, torture, or cruel or inhuman treatment may not be used as a basis for the determination; and (C) the lawfulness of the detention of such alien.''
The reason I am going to vote no on the Bingaman amendment is that these exceptions--the lawfulness of the detention of such alien--would allow a court, if they chose, to look at every condition of the enemy prisoner's life and do, again, what we are trying to prevent, that you could go into Federal court and start asking for a Federal judge to intervene in your interrogation before it even starts. My belief is the military is the best group to run the war, not Federal judges.
So I am going to oppose Senator Bingaman's amendment because it preserves habeas rights for noncitizen, foreign terrorists to come into Federal court at the District Court of Appeals, DC Court of Appeals, to put a wide variety of issues on the table. I do not think that is good for us. I do not think it is good for the war.
Now, I will vote with Senator Levin on our comprehensive package when it comes to how we are going to conduct the war on terror.
I will end with this thought. For the first time I know of, since September 11, 2001, we have sat down as a Congress and an administration to start thinking this thing through. We have come up with, I believe, a darn good package.
I say to Senator Levin, I have enjoyed working with him on this. I have been a military lawyer for over 20 years. There are a lot of things that go on in the Senate I do not know as well as I should. But I feel very comfortable that the war on terror is truly a war, that 9/11 was an act of war, it was not a crime, and if we will apply the law of armed conflict, we can be proud as a nation.
I say to the Senator, your amendment and my amendment together have gotten us back to where we should have been years ago, applying the law of armed conflict to these terror suspects in a way that goes beyond the Geneva Conventions because we are a nation that wants to do it right and then some. But we are also preserving our own ability to defend ourselves.
So to the world, if you are wondering what is going on in America now, if anybody goes to Guantanamo Bay, the Congress will be told about what goes on, and we will have a say about what goes on. If anybody at Guantanamo Bay is determined to be an enemy combatant, not only will Congress be involved in how they are kept and how long they are kept, our Federal courts will review the actions of our military to see if they comply with the Constitution of our Nation. And that is a huge change.
I say to the Senator, I congratulate you for working with me--working together--to come up with a review process, where the world can know for sure that what we are doing meets our own constitutional standards. Enemy combatants are going to get a chance to go to Federal court. The Federal court is going to look at the big picture and see whether what we have done is constitutional, and when it comes to that individual's case, to look at whether the procedures and standards that were involved were properly applied. The world should respect us for that. I am proud to have been part of that process.
To those who go to court and have their liberty interests dealt with, those who are going to be tried for law of armed conflict violations, we can tell the world that those people who will be tried at Guantanamo Bay will not be tried in secret. They will be tried in public to the extent that we can.
There is an op-ed piece today in the Washington Post by a defense counsel--and God bless him; I have been a defense counsel, and I want every right I can get as a defense counsel--saying that the trials at Guantanamo Bay are a lot different than the ones at Nuremberg. He is right in this regard. Nuremberg was trying people after the war was over. We will be trying people at Guantanamo Bay while the war is going on.
What we want to do is make sure the public knows as much as possible about the process, that the defendants understand the evidence against them, that they have the right to challenge the evidence, call witnesses, and testify. And they are presumed innocent. It is a very good infrastructure. But there may be some evidence down there about a particular defendant that has to be classified because to divulge that evidence would tip our enemy off as to what we are doing and how we are doing it.
We are still at war. It is important we understand we are still at war. But we can tell the world that for every person who goes through a military commission trial, we will be as open as we possibly can be without compromising our own security.
When that verdict is rendered, the Federal courts of the United States of America will look at the military action to see if it comports with the Constitution of our Nation, the preeminent legal document in the world, and will also review the individual's case. I am proud of that. It is going further than we probably absolutely have to, but it is doing the American thing. It is putting American values on display.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, tomorrow is a historic day in the war on terror. You have a chance to put some legal infrastructure in place that will be a model for the world, that will help us win this war on our terms. I am proud to have been part of it.
I yield the floor.