FD Editor’s Note: PLEASE take the time to write your representatives as well as the DoJ and the President. This bill has not yet passed! There is still a chance it will not pass, but everyone must write!
WASHINGTON—House and Senate negotiators agreed on a final version of a key defense-policy bill on Tuesday, leaving in place legal restrictions on the Obama administration’s ability to transfer detainees out of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The defense-authorization bill also contains additional sanctions on Iran that the White House opposes. In another provision, it expands access to abortion services in military hospitals.
The White House had threatened a veto if the detainee-transfer restrictions from last year’s-bill were left in force. Human-rights groups on Tuesday called on the Obama administration to make good on that option.
White House officials declined to comment on Tuesday’s action. It isn’t clear whether the White House would veto the bill, or if it has the capacity to mount a legislative push to close the prison. Congressional opposition to doing so remains strong, particularly if it meant moving detainees to the U.S.
The bill—expected to be considered by both chambers this week—retained a set of provisions approved in last year’s defense-policy measure that require a national-security waiver to transfer detainees to foreign countries, absent a court order demanding their release. Another provision bars the administration from transferring detainees to the U.S. during 2013.
Adm. John Hutson, a retired Navy lawyer who is on the board of Human Rights First, which has advocated closing Guantanamo, said a veto would “make a statement” that the president’s powers to oversee wars and prosecute crimes shouldn’t be restricted.
“I understand the president has other issues on his mind.… However this is awfully important,” Adm. Hutson said. “A series of one year continuations ends up being indefinite detention. I think that is a problem.”
The compromise dropped a measure that would have prohibited holding U.S. citizens and permanent residents indefinitely, without trial or charge, under laws of war. In its place is a provision designed to clarify that last year’s defense bill didn’t take away the right of courts to review the detention of people who are taken into custody in the U.S.
The bill also contains a measure that authorizes the military to pay for abortions in the case of rape and incest. Previously the military would only pay for abortions when the mother’s life was in danger. This puts the Pentagon in line with other federal health-care programs.
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