House Lawmakers Pass Defense Bill

Posted December 14th, 2011 at 9:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a $662-billion defense bill that contains a provision regarding the handling of certain terror suspects.

By a margin of 283 to 136, lawmakers Wednesday approved the measure after the White House dropped a veto threat over the provision. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and then go to President Barack Obama for his signature. Lawmakers had said revisions were made to the detainee provision in an effort to avoid the threatened veto.

The bill authorizes funding for the Defense Department and national security programs of the Energy Department. It also provides money for military personnel, weapons systems as well as operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the fiscal year that began October 1.

The measure requires military detention, subject to a presidential waiver, for foreign al-Qaida terrorists who are captured when plotting to attack the United States. A change to the detainee provision exempts U.S. citizens, but it does not guarantee suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens, a trial, and leaves open the possibility of indefinite detention.

The legislation would place a freeze on some aid to Pakistan until Islamabad gives assurances that it is helping fight the spread of homemade bombs, known as improvised explosive devises, or IEDs. The measure also expands sanctions in Iran.

Separately, the bill prohibits the transfer or release of Guantanamo detainees to or within the United States and prohibits the use of funds to house Guantanamo detainees in the U.S.

The White House had previously warned of a veto for any bill that challenges or constrains the president's authority to collect intelligence, incapacitate terrorists and protect the nation. The Obama administration argues that the military, law enforcement officials and intelligence agents need flexibility to act on a case-by-case basis in dealing with terror suspects.