Friday, June 19, 2009

Wire: Congress Passes War Funding Bill, Restricts Obama on Guantanamo

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that Congress passed legislation to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, but provided President Barack Obama no money for closing the Guantanamo detainee prison and set some restrictions on the transfer of detainees.

The $106 billion war bill included many unrelated items, including a "cash for clunkers" incentive to swap gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles; and funds for UN peacekeeping, air service to rural communities, Gulf Coast housing for hurricane victims and the response to a flu pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that the bill includes about $80 billion to finance the two wars through this fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The Pentagon has predicted that the Army could begin running out of money for personnel and operations as early as July without the infusion of more money.

Other items include $4.5 billion, $1.9 billion above what the president requested, for lightweight mine-resistant vehicles, called MRAPs, and $2.7 billion for eight C-17 and seven C-130J cargo planes that the Pentagon did not ask for.

The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp restrictions in the war funding bill would:
  • Prohibit detainees from being released in the United States.

  • Prevent prisoners being transferred to the United States, except to be prosecuted. Even then, a number of requirements would have to be met, including a plan showing the risks involved, the costs, the legal rationale and certification from the attorney general that the individual poses little or no security risk.

  • Stop detainees from being transferred or released to another country unless the president meets a separate set of requirements, including an assessment of risks posed and terms of the transfer agreement with the receiving country.

The bill was nearly choked by a controversy over how to keep secret photos that allegedly showed U.S. servicemebers abusing detainees. President Obama decided originally to release the photos, then last month bowing to public and Pentagon sentiment, decided against releasing the photos. A federal court last week issued a stay to deny a lawsuit to release them by the American Civil Liberties Union, but senators from both parties were searching for a fail-safe method to keep the photos under wraps.

In the end, the controversy was settled with a Senate vote Wednesday night for a stand-alone law to keep the photos from public view. The House still must vote on that bill, however, meaning the controversy may not be over, The Hill newspaper said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

War supplemental passes after photo settlement
Congress passes restrictions on detainees

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