[JURIST] The Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] on Wednesday finally agreed on a controversial detainee provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 [SB 1867, PDF] that governs the handling and prosecuting of suspected al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] detainees. The provision, which was approved by a 26-0 vote [roll call, PDF], allows the military to have complete custody and control over terror suspects and grants authority to Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] over whether suspects should be tried in military or civilian courts. Disagreements regarding the provision have blocked its passage for months [CNN report], but were finally resolved by top Democrat and Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin and ranking Republican Senator John McCain [official websites]. The provision was passed despite the protests of the White House [Washington Times report], which refused to sign off on the agreement because of the belief that the FBI should have unrestricted access and interrogation rights over domestically detained al Qaeda suspects, rather than the military.
The Armed Services Committee’s decision, which still must survive the Senate floor and the veto power of President Barack Obama, comes on the heels of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF] claiming that the US is diminishing its “core values” [JURIST report] with regard to various counterterrorism measures put in place during the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks [JURIST backgrounder]. To support this contention, the report cites to US policies regarding indefinite military detention for terrorism suspects, the use of torture on terrorism suspects and enemy combatants, racial and religious profiling, and domestic surveillance and wiretapping. The report posits that these policies run deeper than what is known by the American people, civil liberties continue to be violated in secret and that future violations are imminent. The ACLU acknowledged that the government has sought to cease certain questionable practices, citing President Barack Obama’s directive to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison [JURIST news report], but stated that other questionable practices remain “core elements of [US] national security strategy today.”