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Guantanamo Detainees Rights Are Reexamined

After the Supreme Court reversed the Bush administration's tactics for prosecuting terrorism suspects, Congress has been debating how to address the prosecution of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and other U.S. prisons.

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    When the Supreme Court struck down the president's plans for prosecuting military detainees last month, Mr. Bush said he would abide by the ruling in crafting a new approach.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I will protect the people and, at the same time, conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.


    However, in recent weeks it's become clear that the president wants the new policy to look very much like the old one, born in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Then, administration officials crafted a legal strategy for combating a new type of soldier waging an unconventional war.


    The mind-set of war must change. It is a different type of battle.


    The resulting doctrine made clear that, if necessary, the campaign would be fought outside the constraints of existing military law.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: These are not prisoners of war because they don't deserve that status.


    The administration decided that so-called enemy combatants captured on the battlefield would not be protected by the Geneva Conventions. Instead, specially-created military commissions would try the detainees, where prosecutors could use hearsay evidence against them and a jury of American service members could convict on the basis of secret evidence.

    DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Technically, unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention.


    But in the landmark decision, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court struck down that system of military commissions, citing several reasons: that the system was designed without the input of Congress; that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requiring humane treatment of detainees does apply; and that a clear legal framework for those in military custody must be established.

    The court decision forced President Bush to re-evaluate his options on how to deal with the 1,000 detainees being held worldwide, including 450 still at Guantanamo Bay. He either could accept established forms of military justice, such as the courts martial system, or try to persuade Congress to craft more acceptable rules for his style of military commission.


    The fundamental question is: How do we try them? And so, in working with the Supreme Court — listening to the Supreme Court, we'll work with Congress to achieve that objective.

    SEN. JOHN WARNER (D), Virginia: The eyes of the world are upon us, and we must set the standards.

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