Levin: No changes coming to detainee provisions in Senate defense bill

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he does not plan to make any changes to the detainee language in the Senate's defense authorization bill, which was recently struck down by a U.S. District Court in New York.

Levin told reporters Tuesday he was “satisfied” with the language that was in last year’s defense bill, and he disagreed with the way the court interpreted the law.

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“We did not change the law in last year’s bill on this subject at all,” Levin told reporters Tuesday. “We didn’t change what the rights of the president are.”

He added that he was confident that the administration would be able to appeal the District Court ruling.

In the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has said he plans to change last year’s detainee language, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has also indicated she supports altering the provisions.

The defense authorization bill is being marked up in committee this week, giving Udall an opportunity to try to alter the language. Feinstein can introduce amendments when the bill is on the Senate floor.

While Levin said he did not anticipate updating the language, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested Tuesday that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) might try to introduce clarifying provisions if there are attempts to make changes to last year's detainee provisions.

The House included language in this year's authorization bill that said the indefinite detention provisions did not impede on habeas corpus rights.

The detainee language in last year’s bill stalled the authorization measure, and the controversy eventually pitted Levin against the Obama administration. The fight was over mandatory military detention for terror suspects, with opponents of the language claiming it would allow for U.S. citizens to be detained indefinitely.

A compromise was eventually reached that said nothing in the law changed how U.S. citizens are affected by military detention, falling back to language in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Levin said that was sufficient for him.

“How much clearer can you say, ‘We’re not making any change in the law?’” he said. 

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