US Defense Bill Passes in Senate

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 7:30 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. lawmakers have approved a $662 billion defense bill that contains a provision that President Barack Obama has opposed regarding the handling and detainment of terrorist suspects.

The Senate Thursday voted 86-13 in favor of the bill, which now will go to President Obama to be signed into law.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation a day earlier, after the White House dropped a veto threat. Lawmakers said they made revisions to the terrorist detainee provision in an effort to avoid the threatened veto.

The bill requires al-Qaida terrorists to be held in military detention if they are captured when plotting to attack the United States, unless they receive a presidential waiver. It was changed so that U.S. citizens are exempt from the law. However, under the new legislation, suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens, are not guaranteed a trial, and the language leaves open the possibility of indefinite detention.

The White House previously warned it would veto 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.

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

The bill also 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.