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US Senate approves bill on terror interrogations
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | September 29, 2006 20:39 IST
The US Senate gave its final stamp of approval for a bill containing new guidelines on interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects, a legislation desperately wanted by the Bush Administration.
But the passage of the bill by a 65 to 34 vote came not before lawmakers rejected crucial amendments including the right of habeas corpus to detainees. Among the Senators favouring the bill, 53 were Republicans and 12 Democrats. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was the lone Republican who joined Democrats to oppose it.
President George W Bush, who had personally appealed to Congress to approve the legislation, welcomed its passage. "I applaud Congress for passing legislation that will provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary resources to protect our country and win the war on terror. As our troops risk their lives to fight terrorism, this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address tomorrow's threats. I look forward to signing this bill into law," Bush said.
Noting that the bill "recognises that we are a nation at war," Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, "we are not conducting a law-enforcement operation against a cheque-writing scam or trying to foil a bank heist."
"We are at war against extremists who want to kill our citizens, cripple our economy and discredit the principles we hold dear -- freedom and democracy," he said. But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid argued that voting for the bill would be a "grave error."
He stressed that while the national security policies of this administration and Republican Congress may have been tough, they have not been smart.
Many of the Democrats who voted with the Republicans to approve the bill on terror detainees are those in tough re-election campaigns or from heavily Republican-leaning states.
Meanwhile, House of Representatives passed a bill on Bush Administration's controversial terrorist surveillance programme in a near party line vote of 232 to 191. The surveillance measure would empower the administration to obtain access to private US citizens' phone records in the fight against terrorism.
But this Bill has no immediate prospect of clearing the Senate given the chamber's agenda and time limitations. Apart from the crucial appropriation bills for the Department of Defence and Homeland Security that the Senate will have to consider and pass prior to its recess, the chamber has agreed to take up and vote on a bill to construct 700 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border.