View Full Version : Bush To Sign Law On Terror Suspects

10-17-2006, 10:15 AM
Bush to Sign Law on Terror Suspects



WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is signing into law today new standards expediting interrogation and prosecution of terror suspects, a bill the White House says strengthens his hand in a time of war.

Bush's plan becomes law just six weeks after he acknowledged that the CIA had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.

The bill ready for signing would protect detainees from blatant abuses during questioning - such as rape, torture and "cruel and inhuman" treatment - but does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel. Also, it specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said that after Bush signs the legislation Tuesday, the government will immediately begin moving toward the goal of prosecuting some of the high-value suspects being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He expected it would take a month or two to get "things moving toward a trial phase."

"In terms of having trials, for good and obvious reasons, you don't do that overnight," Snow told reporters. "You do have to make sure that the defense is going to be able to do its job properly and the prosecution the same."

The swift implementation of the law is a rare bit of good news for Bush as casualties mount in Iraq in daily violence. Lawmakers are increasingly calling for a change of strategy and political anxieties are jeopardizing Republican's chances of hanging onto control of Congress.

Bush was able to divert attention from Republican troubles when he first asked for the legislation during a dramatic speech on Sept. 6 in the White House East Room attended by some families of Sept. 11 victims.

But the distraction was short-lived as new revelations of Bush's handling of the Iraq war in a book by Bob Woodward raised fresh criticism of his administration. And Republican Rep. Mark Foley's resignation from Congress after amid revelations of tawdry e-mails sent to former House pages drowned out Bush's terrorism agenda.

The signing ceremony offered Bush the chance to bask in a legislative victory. About 150 people were invited to the White House for the event, including military officers, members of Congress and members of Bush's cabinet.

"President Bush is going to mark this bill signing as a historic moment because it is a law that he knows will be effective in preventing terrorist attacks and keeping Americans safe," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Bush needed the legislation because the Supreme Court in June said the administration's plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law.

The legislation, which sets the rules for court proceedings, applies to those selected by the military for prosecution and leaves mostly unaffected the majority of the 14,000 prisoners in U.S. custody, most of whom are in Iraq.

The Pentagon had previously selected 10 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison to be tried. Bush is expected also to try some or all of the 14 suspects held by the CIA in secret prisons and recently transferred to military custody at Guantanamo - including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and architects of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

The bill also eliminates some rights common in military and civilian courts. For example, the commission would be allowed to consider hearsay evidence so long as a judge determined it was reliable. Hearsay is barred from civilian courts.

The legislation also says the president can "interpret the meaning and application" of international standards for prisoner treatment, a provision intended to allow him to authorize aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be seen as illegal by international courts. Snow said Bush would probably eventually issue an executive order that would describe his interpretation.

Many Democrats opposed the legislation because they said it eliminated rights of defendants considered fundamental to American values, such as a person's ability to go to court to protest their detention and the use of coerced testimony as evidence.

Earlier this year, an anti-torture panel at the United Nations recommended the closure of Guantanamo and criticized alleged U.S. use of secret prisons and suspected delivery of prisoners to foreign countries for questioning.

The legislation nonetheless won overwhelming approval in the House and Senate.

10-17-2006, 01:15 PM
Protesters Arrested as Bush Signs Terror Detainee Bill



WHITE HOUSE (AP) -- Promising it will help bring the 9/11 plotters to justice, President Bush has signed the much-debated terror-detainee bill.

In a White House ceremony, Bush called it a "rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives." He adds that this will be a "vital tool" in the war on terror, promising that those who "kill the innocent will be held to account."

The law protects terror suspects from blatant abuses during questioning, such as torture. But it doesn't require they get lawyers.

The bill passed after some tough objections in Congress, and the president referred today to what he calls a "heated" debate.

But among the objectors is the American Civil Liberties Union, which calls it "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."

While Bush was signing the terror detainee bill, some opponents were being arrested outside.

Authorities say 16 people are charged with impeding access to a White House entrance. They were hauled away from a sidewalk.

The demonstrators come from a coalition of religious groups and had been shouting slogans like "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime."