Senators Introduce the Military Detainee Procedures Improvement Act of 2011

Press Release

By:  Joe Lieberman Lindsey Graham Kelly Ayotte Scott Brown Saxby Chambliss John McCain III
Date: March 10, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Scott Brown (R-MA), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today introduced the Military Detainee Procedures Improvement Act of 2011, which consists of nine major provisions designed to be consistent with, and reaffirm, the Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted overwhelmingly by Congress after the horrific attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. These improvements will provide a solid, statutory foundation for detainee policy which has been a vexing issue for almost 10 years.

"This much-needed legislation would improve our current ad hoc military detention system for members of al-Qaeda and their affiliated terrorist groups, by enacting these policies and procedures firmly into law," said Senator John McCain. "Our legislation addresses difficult detainee issues, including long-term detention and carefully controlled transfers, emphasizing supervision, security, rehabilitation, and reintegration, so former detainees do not return to the battlefield -- as approximately 25 percent of detainees released from Guantanamo have done.

A statute-based standardized system is in our national security interest and will provide greater safety for our citizens and a reduced number of former detainees returning to the fight."

"The President's decisions to hold Guantanamo detainees who are still at war with the United States until the end of hostilities and his decision to refer new charges to military commissions are moves in the right direction. However, there is still much more work to do. The Military Detainee Procedures Improvements Act will make it clear that the President has the authority to detain future detainees, not just those held at Guantanamo today, and will require steps to prevent any detainees who are cleared for release from returning to the battlefield. This legislation will also make sure that we treat detainees in a manner that is consistent with the Geneva Conventions and will provide maximum protection to the American people and the American military," Senator Lieberman said.

"Nearly ten years after 9/11, our nation still does not have a rational detainee policy," said Senator Lindsey Graham. "That is simply unacceptable. Over the past two years, the Obama Administration has repeatedly punted on these difficult issues. The multiple bills we are unveiling today -- dealing with the trial of KSM, a detention procedures bill, an interrogation bill, and a habeas bill -- have been a collaborative effort and I am proud of our work. The series of reforms in the Armed Services, Judiciary, and Intelligence Committees creates a pathway forward that recognizes the dangerous threats we face, yet still lives within the values we hold dear. For my part, I put a particular focus on KSM and habeas procedures. The Administration has badly managed the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammad (KSM) and the 9/11 conspirators. KSM should face trail by military commission, not federal district court. Under the Laws of War, he is not entitled to the same constitutional rights as an American citizen."

"It has become clear in the past several years that not having a long-term detention policy is no solution for fighting terrorism. Faced with a recidivism rate of more than 25 percent, we must get serious about minimizing the threat former GTMO detainees may pose to our national security. These provisions are an important first step in creating a much-needed comprehensive terrorist detention and interrogation policy," Senator Chambliss said.

"Terrorists should be detained at Guantanamo Bay, and tried according to the laws of military justice. Terrorists should not be allowed to enjoy the rights and privileges protected by the U.S. Constitution. These are not common street criminals, they are terrorists who have one fundamental purpose: to kill Americans and our allies," Brown said.

"With no plan for where newly captured terrorists will be held and with 25 percent of released Guantanamo detainees returning to the fight to kill Americans and our allies, it is clear that the Administration's detention policy is fundamentally flawed," said Senator Kelly Ayotte. "We remain at war with violent extremists who want to kill Americans, which is why we need common sense interrogation and detention policies that keep us safe."

KEY PROVISIONS IN THE MILITARY DETAINEE PROCEDURES IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2011:

* Reaffirms the President's authority to detain members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and affiliated terrorist groups based on the authority granted by Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

* Requires members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and affiliated terrorist groups be held in military custody when captured, unless the Secretary of Defense certifies civilian custody is a national security interest.

* Permanent restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees to foreign countries, requiring greater scrutiny on the security situation and ability of the host country to monitor a detainee: Requires the Secretary of Defense to invoke a national security waiver if a detainee is to be transferred to a country where former detainees have returned to the fight.

* Permanent prohibitions on funding alternatives to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in the United States: The American people and a bipartisan majority of Congress have rejected civilian trials in the United States for those directly responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- as an example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM).

* Requires the Secretary of Defense to set out and submit to Congress new uniform procedures for annual review to determine whether detainees can safely be released: Recommendations for transfer of detainees would be made by a panel of experts in military operations, intelligence, and anti-terrorism.

* Requires the Secretary of Defense to create and report to Congress new uniform procedures to establish the status of detainees before any individual is subject to long-term detention under the Law of War.

* Clarifies the right to plead guilty in death penalty cases in military commissions.

* Establishes a Sense of Congress to provide the President with the authority to target and take lethal action against individuals -- such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the leading propagandist and operational planner for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who is linked to both the Fort Hood attack and the attempt to blow up an airliner and 300 innocent passengers on Christmas Day, 2009, near Detroit.

* Establishes a Sense of Congress that members of al-Qaeda, and affiliated terrorist groups, who have long been detained under the Law of War, be tried by military commission at Guantanamo Bay.