Republicans, Democrats defy Bush on detainees

Senate Armed Services Committee approves an alternative to the White House plan.

Published September 15, 2006 12:03AM (EDT)

Heeding George W. Bush's call to work together on the war on terrorism -- albeit not exactly in the way he had in mind -- four Republicans and nine Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon rebuffed the president's plan for the interrogation and prosecution of detainees.

Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins joined the Democrats on the committee in backing Warner's plan for military tribunals, which would, as the Washington Post explains, "limit the use of classified evidence and coerced testimony in terrorism prosecutions and maintain broader protections for detainees against cruel and inhumane treatment."

Warner's proposal is an alternative to the White House plan, which would effectively rewrite Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, allow military tribunals to deny detainees access to some of the evidence against them, and permit military prosecutors to introduce evidence that was obtained through coercive means. The White House plan, which made it through the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, has drawn heavy criticism from military lawyers and many former military leaders, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

A letter from Powell, in which the retired general said Bush's plan puts U.S. troops at risk, may provide political cover for Republicans and Democrats who want to resist intense lobbying efforts from the White House as Warner's bill moves to the Senate floor. How does the White House feel about Powell's opposition? Tony Snow said today that Powell may have been "confused" about Bush's plan -- a characterization he later tried to retract -- and the president dismissed a question about Powell's letter by saying that "there's all kinds of letters coming out."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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