A leading House Republican says the Pentagon has been too lenient with terror suspects, potentially putting him at odds with GOP moderates in the Senate pushing to grant military detainees more legal rights.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said that in "some cases we erred on the side of letting people go who we should not have let go." Hunter was referring to detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay military prison, which currently holds about 450 suspected terrorists.
Hunter, an advocate of the Bush administration's handling of detainees, was scheduled to conduct a hearing Wednesday on detainees' legal rights, following a June 29 Supreme Court ruling that the Pentagon's planned military tribunal system violates international law. The debate comes just as election season is heating up, when both parties will try to appear strong on national security issues.
The 5-to-3 ruling prompted Congress to try to pass legislation authorizing the tribunals or an alternative before detainees could be prosecuted.
The Bush administration on Tuesday announced that detainees would be guaranteed the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions in light of the court ruling. Senior officials also asked lawmakers to restore the military tribunals now in limbo.