It would make illegal several broadly defined abuses of detainees, while leaving it to the president to establish specific permissible interrogation techniques. And it would strip detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court.
“I believe there can be no mercy for those who perpetrated the crimes of 9/11,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, said. “But in the process of accomplishing what I believe is essential for our security, we must hold onto our values and set an example that we can point to with pride, not shame.”
Even some Republicans who voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the provision barring court detainees’ challenges, an outcome that would send the legislation right back to Congress.
“We should have done it right, because we’re going to have to do it again,” said Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, who voted to strike the provision and yet supported the bill. The measure would broaden the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in the United States as well as those in foreign countries and anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense.
It would strip at Guantánamo detainees of the habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials. Those trials have looser rules of evidence than the courts.
It would allow of evidence seized in this country or abroad without a search warrant to be admitted in trials.
The bill would also bar the admission of evidence obtained by cruel and inhuman treatment, except any obtained before Dec. 30, 2005, when Congress enacted the Detainee Treatment Act, that a judge declares reliable and probative.
Democrats said the date was conveniently set after the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
On a completely unrelated note, the Bill of Rights to the United States Consitution will be 215 years old on December 15 of this year.