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President Bush Proposes Military Trial Process for Terror Suspects

Following the announcement that terror suspects had been held in secret facilities, President Bush pressed Congress Thursday to approve military tribunals for terror suspects. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and John Sununu (R.-N.H.) debate the proposal.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    They follow reactions to the president's terror trials proposals.

    Judy Woodruff is in charge of that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Just weeks before Congress goes home for the midterm elections, President Bush yesterday dramatically raised the legal and political stakes in the fight over how to deal with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

    In addition to the 400-plus prisoners already held there, the president said that 14 more would be moved from CIA secret prisons to face justice at Guantanamo. They include three major figures: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 plot; Abu Zubaydah, an aide to Osama bin Laden; and Ramzi Binalshibh, another 9/11 plotter.

    The president's announcement yesterday represented his fullest response to the June Supreme Court decision that overturned the administration's plan for military tribunals to try the Guantanamo detainees. Now Congress takes up the issue of whether the detainees would be tried under the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or by rules that would give government prosecutors far more leeway.

    We get our congressional response now from two senators. John Sununu is a New Hampshire Republican. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And Jack Reed is a Rhode Island Democrat. He's on the Armed Services Committee.

    Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

    And, Senator Reed, to you first.

    The president has sent this program, his proposal to the Congress. He's saying: I need this in order to prosecute these terrorists.

    Do you believe this is the right way to go about prosecuting them?

    SEN. JACK REED (D), Rhode Island: Well, currently, Judy, the debate is among Republicans, more so than between Republicans and Democrats.

    Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham have pointed out that, in order to provide a — a legitimate process, that modifications must be made to the president's proposal. That sentiment was echoed today by the uniformed military lawyers who testified before the House of Representatives.

    These gentlemen have dedicated their lives to serving their country in uniform, and they understand that this is not just about prosecuting these individuals who committed heinous crimes, but it's also about ensuring that, if Americans fall into this type of captivity, they will have fair procedures, also.

    So, I would take the advice of the uniformed military, the advice that both Senator McCain and Senator Warner, and Senator Graham, are urging on the president.

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