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Senate Takes Up Issue of Guantanamo Detainee Rights, Pt. I

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning.

Starting today, Congress gets its turn at detainees in the war on terror. President Bush's system of military tribunals failed before the Supreme Court. The Court said the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay violated U.S. and international laws. That same ruling suggested that Congress could change the laws. And this week, three Congressional committees hold hearings on what to do. We begin our coverage with NPR's Ari Shapiro. Good morning

ARI SHAPIRO reporting:

Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: What's the dilemma for lawmakers?

SHAPIRO: Well, the question is how to move forward. And they have a spectrum of options in front of them here, where, at one end of the spectrum, they could just sigh off on the system of military commissions that the White House initially created that have been in place for the last five years. On the other end of the spectrum, they could put the detainees in a system that has existed for decades, the military court-martial system. But what we're hearing mostly from members of Congress is something in the middle, sort of a modified court-martial system that they're going to sort of hammer out over these hearings and other meetings over the coming weeks.

MONTAGNE: And what would happen if Congress signed off on the existing system?

SHAPIRO: Well, the Supreme Court might not uphold it. The military commissions as designed have, what the court saw, as some real fundamental problems. They don't have an independent judge, they allow hearsay evidence, they allow evidence that was obtained through coercion. The Supreme Court, as you mentioned, said that violated U.S. and international law, and some members of Congress have really had a problem with that for a long time, for five years now some members of Congress have been waiting to introduce legislation that would deal with this issue. So now that they have the blessing of the high court, they see this as a real opportunity to get in and change the system to something that they think is more in keeping with what the U.S. military ought to be doing with these detainees.

MONTAGNE: Ari, stay with us. We're going to bring another voice into the conversation here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.