Udall hits back against Levin, McCain on detainees

“I have no doubt that my colleagues had the best of intentions when they wrote those provisions, but their proposal is deeply flawed,” Udall, an Armed Services member, wrote. “If the Senate passes this legislation in a vote expected this week, we risk harming our ability to combat terrorism and weakening our national security.”

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The opinion page back-and-forth mirrors the debate in the committee, where Udall proposed stripping the detainee provisions from the defense bill. That amendment failed, but he’s offered up a similar provision in the bill that’s currently on the Senate floor.

The White House has threatened to veto the defense legislation over the detainees. The legislation mandates military custody and prosecution for al Qaeda terror suspects, but gives the executive branch a waiver for the terror suspects to be handled by federal law enforcement.

“These proposed changes would require the military to take on a new responsibility as police, jailors and judges — jobs for which it is not equipped and which it does not want,” Levin wrote.

“The last thing we should be doing is preventing local, state and federal authorities from investigating and acting on threats to our safety.”

Levin and McCain argue that their legislation helps give the executive branch “the clear authority, tools and flexibility of action it needs to defend us against the threat posed by al Qaeda.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to finish the defense bill this week, and amendments will be considered on the Senate floor Tuesday.

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