White House Plans for Detainees' Trials

From the Associated Press

The White House is expected to unveil as early as next week a proposal for prosecuting terrorism suspects now detained by the military, after weeks of negotiations with Congress and meetings with military lawyers.

The recommendations are expected to be described by senior Bush administration officials during a Senate hearing.

Still under discussion this week is whether the White House will agree with GOP senators to base a new effort on the military's court-martial system, which would afford suspected terrorists certain rights, or to support legislation that would authorize the Pentagon's existing tribunal system.

A draft of the bill being circulated within the administration declares that a more defendant-friendly court-martial system was "not practicable in trying enemy combatants" because it would require the government to share classified information, the New York Times reported on its website Tuesday night.

According to the draft, which has not been finalized, hearsay evidence would be allowed unless it was deemed to be unreliable. Defendants also could be barred from their own trials.

The legislation would declare that terrorism suspects could not file lawsuits in the future saying their Geneva Convention rights were violated, the Times said. The Supreme Court ruled last month that the international law did apply to terrorism suspects.

The legislation would offer a few expanded protections for defendants, including a ban on statements obtained by the use of torture as evidence, the Times said.

The administration has been dealing with the issue of detainees' legal rights since a ruling by the Supreme Court in late June, which required congressional authorization for the Pentagon's military tribunals to prosecute the prisoners.

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he had wanted to convene a hearing this week on the matter, but was urged by Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales to hold off until the administration could interview military lawyers and formulate a solid proposal. Warner met with Gonzales on Tuesday in what he referred to as ongoing discussions.

Warner and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have met frequently with administration officials in recent days to discuss detainee legislation.

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