McCain, Feinstein Debate Terrorist Trials

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., predicted Congress will act swiftly to reverse the Supreme Court's declaration that President Bush exceeded his authority by ordering military tribunals for the approximately 400 detainees held in Guantanamo Bay.

"We're gonna have hearings, we're going to examine the court decision very carefully," McCain said in an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "I am confident that we can make sure that bad guys … are not released … and those that deserve to be released will be."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that the Bush administration overstepped their bounds, saying in the majority decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens that the administration contradicted both U.S. law and the Geneva Convention. The case itself was brought by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a known associate of Osama bin Laden who has been held in Guantanamo for four years. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who backed the government in a previous decision at the appeals level, withdrew from the Supreme Court case.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also appearing exclusively on "This Week," said the Supreme's Court's decision is significant.

"The Court's opinion was a very major opinion, and basically what it said was that the president exceeded his authority," she said.

"It's pretty clear to me that the Congress has to act and should act," she added.

McCain sounded a cautiously optimistic tone, repeatedly arguing that Congress could forge a compromise.

"I think we can sit down together, we can work this out," he said.

McCain said he saw three parts to the decision -- the role of Congress in resolving the debate, using the military code of justice as a framework for any work by Congress, and a need to more strictly adhere to the Geneva Convention.

There were, however, some rumblings this week that the issue could become political in a critical mid-term election year. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a press release on Friday criticizing Democrats for their reaction to the decision. The statement, entitled "Capitol Hill Democrats Advocate Special Privileges for Terrorists," said in part, "Al Qaeda, whose terrorist thugs are not a party to nor bound by the Geneva Conventions, is surely pleased at the show of support from Capitol Hill Democrats."

Feinstein warned, "I think the Republicans will rue the day if they politicize this."

McCain, however, remained confident, saying members of both parties "ought to look at the bright side of this," telling ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos that the judicial logjam that had prevented any trials had now been broken.

"We will move forward and adjudicate these cases," McCain concluded.

McCain felt the decision would not impact the other war powers exerted by President Bush.

Feinstein disagreed.

"I do think this applies to the terrorist surveillance program," she said. "The president is somewhat bridled by the Constitution and the law … and he must follow this in this war on terror."

Feinstein also stated, "I think this nation is strengthened, not weakened when this happens."

But, with regard to the New York Times story detailing the U.S. government's efforts at bank data surveillance, both senators told ABC News they would rather not have seen the program on the front page of one of the nation's largest newspapers.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...