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Bill Takes Hard Line on Terror Trials

September 12, 2006|From the Associated Press

A House Republican has drafted a bill largely mimicking a Bush administration plan to create military commissions to prosecute terror suspects, including a provision letting judges bar defendants from access to some evidence.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, will propose Wednesday that his panel approve a bill that would allow the exclusion of evidence to protect classified information. A floor vote is expected next week.

The bill puts Hunter (R-El Cajon) in line with the White House and Senate leadership, but at odds with his counterpart, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.).

Warner and some of his colleagues have drafted a rival bill that would ensure a defendant be allowed access to all evidence against them.

Hunter's bill would require commission members, who would act as a jury, to be informed if such a step was taken and instruct them to grant appropriate weight to the evidence, according to a copy of the draft.

Hunter's proposal includes other slight deviations from the administration proposal, including a requirement that no fewer than nine members of the commission be present in a case involving a potential death sentence.

The administration bill would allow five members to deliver a death sentence in certain cases.

Hunter's bill also says the administration would be given authority to convene commissions only in the cases of "alien illegal enemy combatants."

The administration's plan is said to seek broader authority for the president.

Being allowed to obtain evidence is considered a fundamental right in civilian and military courts for a defendant to mount an adequate defense.

President Bush's proposal, delivered last week to Congress, would let a defense counsel with security clearance see the information but not show it to a client.

The provision has been a major sticking point in negotiations between the White House and Warner. Warner, working with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are expected to insist upon their position that a defendant be allowed access to all evidence.

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