Detainee Rights: Reuters vs AP

How much difference a title makes.  The Associated Press’ “Senate Rejects Expanding Detainee Rights” vs Reuters’ “Senate bars bill to restore detainee rights“.  So which is it?  An expansion or a restoration?  Via Reuters (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate voted on Wednesday against considering a measure to give Guantanamo detainees and other foreigners the right to challenge their detention in the U.S. courts.

The legislation needed 60 votes to be considered by lawmakers in the Senate, narrowly controlled by Democrats; it received only 56, with 43 voting against the effort to roll back a key element of President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism.

Answer:  A restoration of rights.  The word expansion heavily implies that the Senate was considering adding additional rights.  Instead, they were considering reaffirming one of the oldest bedrock rights of free society:  Habeus Corpus (AP):

In 2006, Congress passed and Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act, which established a military-run tribunal system for prosecuting enemy combatants. The provision barring habeas corpus petitions means that only detainees selected for trial are able to confront charges against them, leaving most military detainees in custody without a chance to plead their case.

Which gets back to that Reuters article.  It says that barring habeus corpus was:

a key element of President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism.

Highly arguable, yet presented as fact in the body of the article.  No quotes.  Nothing to suggest that not everyone agrees suspending habeus corpus is a key part of Bush’s so called “war on terror”.

The AP quotes Leahy fully and effectively:

“The truth is that casting aside the time-honored protection of habeas corpus makes us more vulnerable as a nation because it leads us away from our core American values,” Leahy said. “It calls into question our historic roll as a defender of human rights around the world.”

The Reuters quote is miles away:

“Any of these people could be detained forever without the ability to challenge their detention in federal court” under the changes in law Congress made last year, Leahy said on the Senate floor. This was true “even if they (authorities) made a mistake and picked up the wrong person.”

“This was a mistake the last Congress and the (Bush) administration made, based on fear,” Leahy said.

They go on to quote Senator Graham more administration friendly statement:

Giving habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees would “really intrude into the military’s ability to manage this war,” Graham said, adding that it was “something that has never been granted to any other prisoner in any other war.”

“Our judges don’t have the military background to make decisions as to who the enemy is,” Graham told the Senate.

The AP, meanwhile, has a very worrisome Graham quote:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the architects of the law, said the system includes checks and balances to determine whether a person is being held unlawfully. Granting a ban on habeas corpus petitions would allow terrorism suspects to go “judge shopping” around U.S. courts to find a sympathetic ear, he said.

(I’m sure they meant to write that allowing habeas corpus petitions).  The problem with Graham’s argument is that it could easily apply to any other criminal suspect.  Why is the Senator laying pretext that could easily be used to suspend habeas corpus for all citizens?

Of course with the Reuter’s article, we never get to ask this question.  In fact, aside from having the more accurate title, the Reuters article does a noticeably poorer job of reporting the facts of the Senate’s failure to reinstate habeas corpus.

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