Plan to Keep Detainees in Jail for Life Criticized by Senators

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sunday dismissed as “a bad idea” a reported U.S. government plan to keep some suspected terrorists in custody for their lifetime, even if there was not enough evidence to bring them before a judge.

Both Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested that the proposal, reported in Sunday’s Washington Post, was unconstitutional.

“There must be some modicum, some semblance of due process ... if you’re going to detain people, whether it’s for life or whether it’s for years,” Levin said on “Fox News Sunday.”


Detaining individuals for life without judicial review “is a bad idea,” Lugar said on the same program. “So we ought to get over it, and we ought to have a very careful, constitutional look at this.”

The Post reported that the Pentagon and CIA had asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for handling detainees, including hundreds of individuals currently in custody but with insufficient evidence against them to bring to a court.

The State Department is also involved in reviewing possible approaches, the Post said, and any new proposals would affect those captured in future counter-terrorism operations as well as those now in custody.

Among the proposals, the Post reported, is one to fund construction of prisons in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to house detainees from those nations. The prisons would be operated by those countries but monitored by the State Department for compliance with international human rights standards, the Post said, citing a senior administration official.

Also proposed, the Post said, was construction of a 200-bed prison where detainees who authorities believe have no more intelligence to offer would have a greater level of comfort and freedom, more akin to that found in U.S. prisons.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, asked about the reported plans on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said he was “not familiar with that and I can’t talk to it.... I just don’t have the facts on that one.”